“I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you … I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one. I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:20-23).
These words of Jesus’ high priestly prayer, just before he went onto the cross, reveal to us that the Church (as well as all local churches) is to be the expression of the Triune God in a world that does not know him. All who follow Jesus are called in a limited way to be a communal expression of the Three Persons of God who exists from eternity past delighting in loving, giving to, and glorifying one another.
The Triune God exists as a community; real community is to be reflected in the life of the church. In his book titled Paul, the Spirit and the People of God, Gordon Fee remarked, “God is not just saving individuals and preparing them for heaven; rather, he is creating a people among whom he can live and who in their life together will reproduce God’s life and character” (p66). The church is the true koinonia (literally: sharing) that nurtures caring relationships among its members through its mutual giving of self to others.
In fact, the largest percentage of imperatives in the New Testament do not address the believer’s relationship directly to God, nor his relationship to the world, but his relationship to others in the local church. To imitate God, we must as a church seek to cultivate deep friendships. Even though doctrine is important, because it defines the nature and the will of the God we worship, the Christian life is primarily relational. It is learning to love and to respond to one another, albeit in our limited ways, as do the Father, Son and Holy Spirit to one another.
Only by encouraging a web of strong relationships empowered by God’s love and centred around our love for God can we demonstrate to the world the blessed communion of heaven and of the Godhead itself. May we be transformed by the Spirit and drawn into the ever-deepening communal life of our Trinitarian God.