This is the last article in the series of posts by Lynne Baab. I really appreciate these posts from Lynne based on her new book, Friending: Real Relationships in a Virtual World, . I am looking forward to reading the book this week.
Lynne is the author of numerous other books, including Sabbath Keeping and Reaching Out in a Networked World. Visit her website lynnebaab.com for reviews and other information about her books. Lynne is a Presbyterian Church (USA) minister with a PhD in communication from the University of Washington, currently a lecturer in pastoral theology in Dunedin, New Zealand.
In the second half of the twentieth century, theologians engaged in a burst of writing about the relational Trinity. Stanley J. Grenz, in Rediscovering the Triune God: The Trinity in Contemporary Theology (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2001), uses the words “renaissance” and “rebirth” to describe the rise in interest in trinitarian theology in the twentieth century (p. x). He goes on to say: “By the end of the twentieth century, the concept of relationality had indeed moved to center stage. In fact, the assumption that the most promising beginning point for a viable trinitarian theology lies in the constellation of relationships among the three trinitarian persons had become so widely accepted that it attained a kind of quasi-orthodox status” (p. 117-118).
When Jesus invites us into friendship with him in John 15:12-17, he is inviting us to participate in the “constellation of relationships” among the three persons of the Trinity. The relationality of the Trinity isn’t just something we are called upon to emulate; it is actually something we are gathered into. This intriguing way of looking at our relationship with God, and also our human relationships, has some comforting and challenging implications for human friendships.
When we engage in any relationship – with God or friends or family members – we are not inventing the concept of relationship. Because we were made in the image of a relational God, we were created for relationships with God and with others. We have to take action to be a good friend, to be sure, but we don’t have to strain at it. We can relax a bit, in the knowledge that God created us for relationships, that God wants to help us be good friends and that we are not engaging in relationships on our own, as independent beings. We engage in relationships as participants in the love between the persons of the Trinity.
We can expect that a relationship with God through Jesus Christ will help us grow in our ability to nurture human friendships. God’s business is relationships. Love is the hallmark of God’s personality and priorities. As we draw near to that God, the Holy Spirit will help us to grow in love, which will spill over to all our relationships. God will help us forgive, share, reach out and show compassion and kindness. We can draw near to God and expect that over time, our ability to live in communal love with others will grow because of God’s Spirit at work within us.
As we grow in experiencing intimacy with the relational God who loves us from the soles of our feet to the top of our heads, and who knows through and through and loves us anyway, the more secure we will feel. That security will help us show love and affection in relationships. So many conflicts between friends grow out of insecurity and pride. The more we know deep inside that we are loved, the more we rest in the embrace of the God who loves us, the less we will need to bolster our pride and prove something to the people around us. As we receive love from God, we will feel increasingly peaceful and harmonious internally, and that peace and harmony will spill over into relationships with others.
Writing my recent book on friendship, Friending: Real Relationships in a Virtual World, was an enormous privilege, because it gave me the opportunity to ponder the love of God and the way God’s love impacts our friendships. Truly our friendships help us rest in the reality that we are loved by God, and help us reflect that reality to others. Truly our friendships are a place where we are shaped increasingly into Christ’s image.