Where Community Begins
Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them… bowed low to the ground, [and] said, “If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by.”
In the eighteenth chapter of Genesis, Abraham realizes that the Lord is paying him a visit as he sits in the doorway to his tent and looks up to see three men standing nearby. A debate rages among Biblical scholars as to whether these three visitors to Abraham’s home represent the Trinity. Those who say yes point to verse two, where Abraham bows and addresses them collectively as “My Lord,” or “Adonai” a name reserved only for God in the Hebrew Text. Those who say this is not the Trinity point to chapter 19, where two of the three who are called angels depart, and the one who remains and talks with Abraham is called the Lord.
But to get into a theological debate over which one of these three is God, or if all three are God-in-One, misses the whole point of the story. When we speak of God as “Three-In-One,” we are saying that God’s very nature is community and that God is known only in and through love. Whether you see God showing up at Abraham’s door as Three-In-One, or as One with two angels at God’s side, the point of the story is that God shows up in community.
The most common temptation for any of us who call ourselves believers is to use believing the “right doctrines,” or belonging to the “right group,” or practicing the “right rituals,” as a substitute for any real, personal and life-changing encounter with God and with other human beings. True community – indeed, salvation itself – begins not by belonging to a group, believing their doctrines, or practicing their rituals; but by our communion with God through God’s Son Jesus Christ, who compels us to seek community with the world for whom He gave His life.
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