The doctrine of the trinity—God is three persons in one—is one of the harder theological concepts for us to understand. How can something be three and one at the same time? While several common illustrations are offered to help explain the trinity, none of them quite get us to a solid understanding, and when they are pressed, they all break down with some sort of failing. So the temptation to put this teaching aside and leave it for the professional theologians to debate is certainly understandable. But that would be a mistake.
While we cannot fully understand the triune nature of God, it is important for us to rub shoulders with it because it tells us so much about the relational nature of God. From before God even created time, God has always enjoyed perfect relationship—perfect love, harmony, and unity—as part of His triune nature. Relationship, or community, is at His core. It, in part, defines Him. Just as God is love, God is relational.
At least understanding that about God’s triune nature is critical for us because it explodes the myth of the “Lone Ranger Christian.” You’re familiar with that myth, right? If not, it goes something like this…”What matters most is my personal relationship with God. I only need Him.”
While Lone Ranger Christians may not say it overtly, this thinking is what leads many to forsake or be marginally involved in a local church. Community is seen as non-essential or icing on the cake. But when we consider the trinitarian nature of God, that perspective cannot be sustained. Community cannot be icing on the cake for the church when it is at the core of God’s nature and identity. Community is at God’s very heartbeat and when we pay attention, we see this proven on page after page of Scripture.
God formed Adam and Eve to be in relationship with each other and with Him.
God formed a people—Israel—to be a community of faith and serve Him.
Jesus formed a team around Him—the disciples—to join with Him on mission.
Jesus formed a team—the church—to continue His mission.
Every step of the way, we see God working with people, not just individuals. Now, is that to say that your personal relationship with Jesus doesn’t matter? Not at all! We do have a personal relationship with Christ and are not just a nameless cog in a wheel. Failing to appreciate that is the opposite mistake of the Lone Ranger Christian. The truth is in the middle. Our personal relationship with Jesus and the relational nature of God and His Son’s bride are equally true and equally important both at once.
That long lead-in brings us to this week’s session, Jerusalem’s Walls Were Rebuilt. (Unit 18, Session 4) Last week, we saw how Nehemiah heard news of Jerusalem still lying in ruins and why Jerusalem was so important. This week we pick up the story and follow Nehemiah back to Jerusalem where he organizes a public works effort that resulted in the walls and gates being rebuilt in 52 days. That’s amazing! When you think of the city walls, don’t think of a typical wall you might see today. The city walls averaged 8 feet thick and 40 feet high and were 2.5 miles long. That means about 250 feet of wall was built each day. Nearly a football field length of 8 feet thick, 40 feet high wall was built every single day. By regular people without modern equipment and under threat of attack.
Now, while the main credit goes to God, and Nehemiah’s leadership also deserves quite a bit of praise, we also see the beauty of community in this story. God’s people worked together—quite literally—to rebuild the walls. Lone Ranger Nehemiah couldn’t have done it. This project needed community. And when the community worked together, the result was for God’s glory and their good.
As you teach this week, point your kids to how the walls protected God’s people from their enemies and how Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead to rescue His people from sin and death. But also be sure to show your kids the beauty of gospel community—community of which they are part.
When have you seen the beauty of gospel community? Leave a comment below.
Here is more help for leaders preparing for the February 12, 2017 session (Unit 18, Session 4) of The Gospel Project for Kids.
Brian Dembowczyk is the team leader for The Gospel Project for Kids. He served in local church ministry for over 16 years before coming to LifeWay. Brian earned an M.Div. from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a D.Min. from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Brian, his wife, Tara, and their three children—Joshua, Hannah, and Caleb—live in Murfreesboro, TN, where Brian enjoys drinking coffee and teaching 4-5 graders at City Church.