Confessions of a 20-Year Old Theologian.
First, think of the issue or thing that you think causes the greatest division in modern day culture. It could be a political point, a socio-economic one, or even a racial issue. Whatever it is, keep it in your mind.
I’m a theology student, so I get to learn a ton of fancy terms to describe God. I want to explain Perichoresis to you, but you have to understand a little about Singarama first. Singarama is an event on my University’s campus. All the clubs on campus are split into three teams, and each group is given a theme.
Based on that theme,
the teams have to create a twenty-five minute musical complete with songs, original choreography, and a full plot. At the end of it, the three teams compete against each other before one is crowned the winner (Not to brag but I’ve been on the winning team for two years straight).
Participating in Singarama will blow your mind, but there’s nothing more depressing than the first practice for a dance. Everyone there is just barely learning the moves, and most people have next to no previous dance experience.
The show starts out sloppy, but there’s always one practice (usually during the week before the show) where each dance finally comes together. Completing a whole dance in unison for the first time feels incredible.
So, back to Perichoresis.
Peri- is the root word for perimeter, and it means something like “around”. -chore- is the root of choreography, so it means “movement”. As such, Perichoresis translates roughly to “a dance in the round”. Imagine a medieval movie where everyone is holding hands and dancing in a circle and you’ve got Perichoresis. Singarama exemplifies the concept in a more modern context.
Essentially, God is like three people doing the same dance perfectly in unison. They’re different people, but unified by the rhythm and music of the dance they participate in. At His heart, God is singular and unified, but also diverse in character. That’s why Christians talk about God as three in one. He is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but He’s also just God.
That aspect of God’s character is representative of His intention for His creation. In Revelation 7:9–10, it says;
After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice, saying,
“Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
God promises this vision will come to reality.
All people will be united in the purpose they were created for; praising God. However, unity in diversity is clearly not reality now. Rather, our world tends to disunify the instant diversity of thought, faith, or appearance enters the picture. People can prescribe open dialogue, reconciliation meetings, or anything else to solve problems. Our solutions can help, but the only way to truly solve the problems is unification in Christ.
Now, I want you to think of a time you had to explain something you didn’t quite understand. I’ve attempted to explain cars without any real idea of how they work, and it didn’t go well. You can probably think of your own example.
I recently read a book centering on what happens to 18–22 year old theologians in college. They learn a ton of fancy theological terms (like Perichoresis) and come to know a whole lot about God. However, by definition of their age, their personal experience of God doesn’t expand nearly as fast as their knowledge about Him. Teaching something you know about but not of becomes sloppy and unfocused.
I have a confession. I’ve been teaching outside my own experience. The past few weeks have centered on the book of Acts. It picks up where the Gospels leave off. Jesus has been crucified, He came back from the dead, and now ascended into heaven. His disciples set about proclaiming the Gospel they got from Jesus Himself. Essentially, it’s a book about evangelism, and I’ve done next to none of that.
Last week we talked about one of the biggest steps in the history of Christianity. Jesus was a Jew, and at the beginning of Acts, Christianity is closer to a sect (or maybe denomination) of Judaism than a separate religion. All the followers of Jesus were Jewish, and in their mind, to be near a Gentile was to become religiously “unclean”. However, the leader of the church (Peter) was led to convert a houseful of non-Jews. He returns to the rest of the church only to be criticized for his actions.
Now, we’re gonna take a minute here — if you are a believer, think about your own experience with this stuff. Have you ever shared your faith? Have you ever seen someone come to Christ? Keep it in mind as you read on.
If you’re still curious about who God is, or you don’t believe he exists, or you believe in some other God; have you ever had a Christian reach out and share their faith with you? What was that like? If you’ve never had that happen, have you ever wanted someone to do it?
I have another confession.
After being accused of making himself unclean, Peter gives a “step by step” description of the Gentiles conversion, and makes it clear that the whole process was ordained by God. In general, Christianity throws vocal support behind Peter, but their lives sing a different tune. Christians say they want outsiders to come to know God, and yet rarely do they live that way. I’m one of those Christians.
A while back,
I read a book about the demographic changes Christianity is going through. It treated the number of Christians in America as dependent more on immigration and birth rates than the movement of the church and the Holy Spirit. The author wasn’t trying to make this point, but much of the American church has become so complacent that he’s right.
Let’s go back to Revelation 9.
I firmly believe there are people who woke up this Sunday without the thought of church or God on their mind who will end up praising God before His throne then.
Those people will end up there as a result of God’s work on this earth between now and then, and the Church as His people can be the instruments He uses to make it happen.
I’ve avoided talking to people of other faiths/atheists about God for a long time. The last thing I want to do is push someone farther from Christ by trying to bring them nearer to Him.
At the end of the day though, I’m realizing I have held a small view of God. I’ve believed that no one in modern day culture wants to hear about Him, and the only response they will have is to be offended.
I think God has gotten a bad rap as some archaic taskmaster.
He’s seen as just prescribing rules for people to live by. In spite of this I’ve experienced God, and I can honestly say life with Him is better than anything else. I think it’s impossible for anyone to live into their potential as a human being without knowing Him. He desires the best for His people, and that starts with a relationship with Him.
America has certainly seen its share of sloppy evangelism. Despite this, I have to believe that sharing the positive view of God can lead to new people coming to know Him.
I‘m at a loss for how to do this stuff perfectly, but if I had to guess, I would say it starts in relationship. Ancient Jews tended to keep to themselves for fear of becoming unclean. As such, their social circles were almost completely closed off to Gentiles. In America, most people have social circles mostly made up of those who look like them and believe like them. Some of the most isolated social circles are those of Christians.
It’s hard to build relationships with people you don’t know.
I could be wrong about this, but it may be time for modern-day Christians to step out beyond just the comfortable friends they have now. I’m trying to kickstart this in my own life. I hope to be open to new relationships wherever they crop up, whether that’s as I’m getting my morning coffee or working at my job. That way, I can be open to however God uses me.
For the believers reading this, you’ve been given an invitation to join Christ, and you RSVP’d yes. The cool part is your invitation is reusable, and the name at the top was written in Expo marker anyways. The question is who’s name are you going to put on there, and how are you’re going to pass it on to them. Take a minute and brainstorm that.
If you’re still trying to figure this whole God thing out, that’s totally cool. I’ve been there too, and I’d love to talk to you about it. Feel free to shoot me a message on Facebook or an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.
I want to finish by reading the culmination of the promise God has for His creation. The rhythm that unites His identity is Love, and at the end of Revelation, He brings the whole world together in that. It says;
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
“See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.”