THREE - ONE - THREEONE
As a Christian, I believe God is One.
I also affirm and confess God to be Father, Son and Spirit.
For a major part of my Christian journey, I have found much difficulty and struggled with this belief and confession that God is One and yet Three, Three and yet One.
For over 40 years in my journey, whenever I raised questions and queried on this Triune Being and Nature of God, the answers offered inevitably ended with it being an inexplicable Mystery to be accepted and affirmed in faith, by the faithful. This has been told to me time and time again by well-intentioned Sunday school teachers, bible study leaders, pastors, preachers that I had come into contact with. Theologians with their opinions and using theological terms* also failed to aid me in comprehending, in an experiential manner, this Mystery.
Like a child however, I accepted and trusted their opinions and advice and carried on in my journey, believing in, but without understanding and comprehending experientially how, God can be One and Three.
The resultant for me was that during forty over years of my Christian journey, I remained unclear and confused, as to Who is this God Whom I believe in and confess to be. As such, whenever this issue arose in discussions with others of similar or diverse persuasions and beliefs, my faith in my God would be tried as I could not explain to others in a reasonable manner the Triune Being and Nature of my God. How could I, when I had no clarity, was confused and could not grasp and comprehend it?
I had always taken the words of Jesus recorded in Matthew 22:37 seriously: “ Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.” Not being able with clarity to comprehend with my mind the Triune Being and Nature of God had a constraining and restraining impact on my love for God, in heart, soul, mind and being. There was an emptiness within me that needed to be addressed if I was to be whole in loving God.
I felt sad with this feeling of lack of wholeness, in loving and relating to God, time and time again, whenever I was challenged to give an explanation as to how God can be Three and One at the same moment.
Yet, notwithstanding all of these, I considered myself a Christian and plodded along believing in this Triune God. Arising from the lack of clarity, confusion and lack of wholeness on my part, my relationship with God had periods of distinction.
As a young Christian, I tended to relate to God in a distinctive discriminative manner: Father as Father, Son as Son, Spirit as Spirit. They were Three Individuals to me. They were Three Gods with distinct personalities and roles. I could not comprehend or understand how all at once, Three could be One or are One.
I formed and had a distinctive and separate relationship with each One. Father was the One who gave and sent the Son into the world. Spirit filled the Son at His baptism by John the Baptist. Son was the one who died on the cross at Calvary.
I saw three distinctive Personalities having distinctive actions and roles in the Scriptures. It was only natural relating with each One separately, while suspending my deep-rooted lack of clarity and confusion as to their Triune Being and Nature. I just accepted Each as God. For all intents and purposes, I was relating to Three Gods.
It did not help when a number of preachers, pastors and teachers that I came into contact with used and applied the analogy of father, mother and child in the family - three individuals, one family – to try to explain how God can be Three and yet One at the same time.
For me, this analogy does not address how three individuals can be One Being. Rather, this illustration groups three individuals under the collective noun of ‘family’. They remained three individuals – Three Gods.
As such, issues and angst soon arose within me. I found myself asking questions: Would either of the other Two be jealous if I spend more time with or pray more often to One more than the Others? How do I find an equilibrium treating Each of Them equally when for different needs and purposes, I approach a different One? Like a juggler, how do I juggle these Three relationships to maintain harmony and rest in my relationship with Each and all of Them and They with me. How do They relate One to Another?
These tensions were continually present in me in my early years as a Christian.
The next distinct period commenced when I was introduced to the writings and sayings of the desert fathers, Christian mystics and as I ventured into and practised Christian meditation and prayer. I also read books and materials of writers of other faiths and persuasions.
I became acquainted with individuals and authors, who in their writings described their experiences as “being lost in and one with God”. In letting go of self, many describe experiencing “bliss” and union and oneness with God, where many of them expressly stated or impliedly suggested that the distinction and barrier between self and God ceased to exist.
There were many instances where passages of Scripture were used to augment the point that we can be One with God. “I and the Father are ONE” (JN 10:30) “that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us” (JN 17:21), and other similar ones were referenced for this purpose.
These writings and practices influenced me to slowly relate to God as One. In doing so, the distinction between Father, Son and Spirit subtly disappeared. I began to relate to Father, Son and Spirit as expressions of the One God: The One God manifesting and relating to me as Father, Son or Spirit.
As I related to God in this non-discriminatory manner, I felt that it did not matter as to whom I was relating to. I was just relating to God. Father, Son and Spirit are just different conduits through which I approach God, Who is One.
Opinions of God revealing Himself as Father in the Old Testament, Son in the New Testament and Spirit at Pentecost seem logical to me. The terms Father, Son and Spirit are just ways, roles that God takes or masks that God puts on to communicate and have a relationship with me.
The predominant analogy that influenced me during this non discriminatory phase is that God is like the three states of water:- One God(H2O),Three expressions or states( solid (ice), liquid(water), gas(vapour)). It made sense to me.
However, other questions arose. Does it mean that there are many ways to God? Is Jesus the only way? If I am one with God and lose myself in God, do I continue to exist or become part of God or have I always been a part of God? If so, is there any real distinction between Jesus and me? If there is no distinction between Father, Son and Spirit, then how does one explain Father giving and sending Son? Who became man, Son or Father? Does it really matter? When Son died at the cross did Father die too? Who did Son commit his spirit to at the cross? The list goes on…
I found myself knowing less and less as to Who is my God.
It affected my state of being to become like a pendulum swinging from discriminatory distinctions( Three Gods) to non discriminatory distinctions( ONE God- Three States; one with God), poles apart separated by a mystery that had to be embraced and accepted by faith.
Unresolved tensions remained and it became increasingly difficult to cope with the pressure of relating to a Mysterious God without comprehension. I continued having difficulty loving and relating in wholeness, in heart, soul, mind and being to a God shrouded in Mystery.
But isn’t this Mystery supposed to have been unravelled in the Person of Jesus, the Son Who became a human being, to enable us to know God in a real and authentic relationship?
Every day a Good Friday
Once upon a time, there was a light that shone so brightly, a fire that burned so pure and true. It illuminated all things, turning night into day and opening eyes so they could see. Everyone was amazed that this should be. “Is this light real?” they asked. “How can the light brighten our darkness, when the light cannot brighten itself?”
The Man Jesus
It is very common to hear about Jesus’ life through his three and a half years of ministry, and it is sometimes difficult for us to identify with his milestones in a meaningful way. Not many of us have had to stand up against the religious and political leaders of the day with a completely new message. In a similar way, it is easier to see ourselves receiving miracles instead of performing miracles as Jesus did for others.
Jesus’ life was set apart to be totally different but, when we take a closer look, we find that it also very much like yours and mine.
He was a refugee.
As a babe, he had to flee from his homeland because of the ambitions of King Herod against him. As a child refugee, he grew up in the land of Egypt, whose pharaohs once enslaved his people. He had to wait until the death of Herod before his family returned to the land of his birth.
He lived under occupation.
He returned from Egypt to a land under occupation by a foreign power. The land of his forefathers had become the Judaea Province of Rome. A Jewish child, he grew up in the faith and traditions of his people, “like a tender plant, a root from dry ground”- Isaiah’s imagery. He had an inquisitive and sharp mind and amazed teachers in the Temple at Jerusalem at the age of twelve.
He was a carpenter, a tradesman by occupation. However, he had a rather nondescript appearance and physique. Isaiah spoke of him as having “no form nor comeliness… there is no beauty that we should desire him”.
He was familiar with discrimination in many situations. He knew what it felt to be at the receiving end of contempt and rejection by others. Sorrow was a frequent companion, grief a regular acquaintance.
He was also familiar with Zealots openly inciting the local populace to rebel against Roman authority. He saw and felt the yoke of the Law that the Teachers of the Law imposed on the general populace. They had retained its forms but lost its substance.
It was this man, living with the challenges and concerns common to the day, who professed to be equal to God. Quite a number found his claim to be blasphemous. How can this man be God?