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Sanctified Christology

A Theological & Functional Study of the Whole of Jesus
 

Christology Study                                                                                             printer-friendly pdf version
 

  Chapter 3   

 The Person in the Relational Progression

 

 

Subsections:

 

Christocentric Implications
The Transition Continued
Relationship in Progression
Strategic Shift
Tactical Shift
Functional Shift
Functional Implications

Introduction
Chap. 1
Chap. 2
Chap. 4
Chap. 5
Chap. 6
Chap. 7
Chap. 8
Chap. 9
Chap.10
Chap.11

Table of Contents

Scripture Index

 

          Western Christologies, in particular, tend to have a gap in understanding the relational significance of Jesus’ life and practice, and thus the primacy of intimate relationships together he constituted. Other Christologies, generally from the East and the global South, have a gap in understanding the importance of Jesus’ whole person, thus the significance of relational involvement by the whole person. Incomplete Christology, like the former, leads to an experiential gap of the relational reality constituted by Jesus, while the latter leads to a qualitative gap in the relational experience of these relationships. What gets reduced (even lost) in these Christologies as they progress in practice are the relational significance of “Follow me” (discipleship) and the qualitative importance of the whole person’s (both Jesus’ and ours) relational involvement.

            Both formulations of Christology are interrelated theological issues which functionally overlap in our practice. The theological issues involve the ontology of the person interrelated with the ontology of the church, as persons in relationship together. The functional issues involve how we define our person, how we engage in relationships, and thus how we practice church—all of which include the three major issues of all practice: the significance of our person presented, the quality of our communication, and the depth of relationship we engage. Any gaps in understanding leave these matters susceptible to reductionism. That is, they tend to get shaped primarily by the prevailing worldview and the surrounding sociocultural context, and thus inadvertently reinforce counter-relational work. This chapter further addresses this concern in what is the defining basis of Jesus’ incarnated person and the ongoing base for his sanctified life and practice.
 

 Christocentric Implications

             One of the repercussions from incomplete Christology in the West (or the global North) is somewhat paradoxical. As this Christology has progressed in practice, it becomes increasingly christocentric. The Jesus perceived from the canonical texts (not from extra-biblical sources) becomes overly centered “in Christ,” and as a consequence this image functions as a self-contained God figure comprehensive for our belief and practice. That is, the whole of God gets reduced into a “manageable doctrine” (not the person) labeled Christ—predisposing us in practice to revolve around this image, idea, and example of Jesus. A contemporary illustration of this mindset is WWJD (an acronym for What would Jesus do?), which is used to pay attention to Jesus in a way that Jesus’ whole person never paid attention to himself in the Bible.

            The WWJD formula is not what Jesus asked himself. Jesus was never christocentric in function in the way we often practice. He clearly disclosed the basis of his incarnated person and the ongoing base for his sanctified life and practice: he is directly from the Father (Jn 3:17; 6:38b; 7:16; 8:29), to do only what the Father wants (Jn 4:34; 5:30; 6:38), and only by means of the Father (Jn 5:19; 8:28; 12:49-50), in ongoing life and practice relationally involved in love wholly with the Father (Jn 14:31)—all of his relational action originating from the Father and going back to the Father (Jn 16:28). This is where Jesus’ whole person was focused throughout his sanctified life and practice. And what significance do these relational actions have in common? The coherence of all this is crucial to grasp and the focus of this chapter.

            The irony that an overly christocentric Christology is not focused on the whole of the canonical Jesus has further implications. This involves what is the improbable face of Jesus disclosed in the biblical narratives and our need (or desire) for the probable. That is, much of the person Jesus presented in function falls outside of our perceptions of what is “normal”—based, for example, on a probability distribution from a bell-shaped curve. This includes the expectations from the sociocultural context of the ancient Mediterranean world, from the religious community of post-exilic Judaism, and their messianic hopes. Though Jesus was a devout Jew who lived according to the law, much of his sanctified life and practice can be perceived in the improbable extremes of the bell curve.

            This creates an uncomfortable condition that: one, either skews the range of normal (acceptable) behavior, thus reshaping the curve (i.e., raising expectations); or, two, forces a reinterpretation of Jesus’ improbable actions to a more probable (acceptable) range, or promotes a mere disregard of those actions. The latter certainly result in a more normative theology, however incomplete or distorted, while functionally providing a more palatable practice.

            This process is illustrated by those students who score extremely high on a test to raise the grading curve. A teacher can either throw out these exceptional scores and maintain the bell curve, or they can be accepted thus reshaping the curve. Most students obviously don’t want the curve to be raised since that would increase the expectations of so-called normal probability of student achievement. Unfortunately, many teachers function only within a bell-shaped curve, not only for student performance but for their own as well. How much does this describe church leaders and members?

            A similar process takes place in christological studies and practice. Jesus’ improbable actions tend to be overlooked or minimalized. This selective ignoring or reduction of certain aspects (the improbable) of Jesus’ sanctified life and practice then is compensated for by paying undue attention to more generalized areas (the probable) of Jesus. This overcompensation is magnified christocentric practice focused on the probable Jesus, that is, the incomplete or distorted face of Jesus. The evidence of selective omission in Christology is seen particularly in the absence or marginalization of the imperatives of discipleship, including the primacy of intimate relationships constituted by Jesus.
 

The Transition Continued

            The focus of Jesus’ whole person throughout his sanctified life and practice was first introduced to us at that temple interaction with his parents as a boy of twelve (Lk 2:41-52). This initial understanding (discussed in chapter one) of Jesus’ emerging person continues in his adult public ministry to fully transition into the functional basis of his person and the ongoing base for his sanctified life and practice. Two situations highlight this transition.

            When Jesus drove out a demon from a mute man, the crowd was amazed but some labeled his power from Beelzebub and tested him (Lk 11:14-16). Labels and stereotypes were a common practice from the probable expectations of their surrounding context in those days.[1] After Jesus defined his action as “the finger of God” (11:20), a woman in the crowd boldly cried out a blessing of honor—perhaps in witnessing evidence of the Messiah (v.27). While the honor was indirectly addressed to Jesus, it focused on his mother Mary, implying her agency as the basis for his life. Jesus not only rejects this honor to and through Mary, he redirects the blessing: “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it” (v.28).

            Those who labeled Jesus and tested him essentially tried to explain the improbable by the probable of their perceptual framework, which predisposed them to be closed to Jesus’ whole person. The woman also responded to what was probable for the Messiah, rather than understanding the deeper (and improbable) significance of Jesus’ whole person and “the kingdom of God [which] has come to [her]” (v.20).

            In redirecting the blessing of honor, “the word of God” Jesus focused on to be honored was never about his words (communication, teachings and commands, cf. Lk 6:46; Jn14:21) because his words were only and always the Father’s (Jn 7:16; 8:28; 12:49,50; 14:24). By redirecting the honor to the Father, Jesus defined the functional basis of his whole person—which some defined not only as improbable but impossible. By identifying, to the contrary, the true blessed as those who receive and submit to the Father, Jesus disclosed the relational significance of the kingdom he constitutes—which would fall into the improbable range for messianic expectations. Yet, this was the ongoing base for Jesus’ sanctified life and practice, which would constitute the kingdom beyond even our expectations. This is made definitive in the next situation when the improbable becomes the relational reality and experiential truth of God’s people.

            The second situation completes his transition from a boy of twelve at the temple. Not only did he need “to be in my Father’s house” (Lk2:49), he had to make definitive the Father’s relational context and to function unequivocally by the Father’s relational process. No other context and process were sufficient to define, determine or even contain Jesus’ whole person in sanctified life and practice. When his mother and brothers came “to restrain him” (krateo, to hold, retain, restrain, Mk 3:21) in his improbable (implied in their perceptions) public ministry, Jesus vulnerably disclosed an improbable relational reality, which extended the bell curve beyond its extreme (see Mt 12:46-50).

            Building on his denial of a blessing of honor to Mary expressed earlier, Jesus no longer acknowledged his mother and brothers in the traditional roles of family. These two situations tend to be used to support a strained relationship Jesus supposedly had with Mary and his family.[2] That interpretation fails to understand the deeper relational context and process into which Jesus is taking his followers in relational progression—which his biological family eventually experiences themselves. This is not to be confused with rejecting their persons but it does reject those reductionist substitutes constraining the whole person and the relationships necessary to be whole.

            Jesus not only redefined his family by asking “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?,” then pointing to his disciples, “Here are my mother and my brothers” (Mt 12:48-49). Jesus also made evident his full transition into the functional basis of his person and the ongoing base for his sanctified life and practice, however improbable it was perceived. As first witnessed at his baptism and established during his transfiguration, Jesus functionally established his person and practice wholly in the Father’s relational context of family and by the Father’s relational process of family love—which together with the Spirit are the trinitarian relational context and process of the whole of God. The implication of this, both theologically and functionally, was: the relational reality of God’s thematic actions since creation “has come upon you” (Lk 11:20) and is now fulfilled. And Jesus would constitute his followers in relationship together as the whole of God’s family.

            That is, those who followed Jesus in relational progression to the Father would be constituted as “my brother and sister and mother.” Jesus said “Whoever does the will of my Father” (Mt 12:50)—building further on his redirecting of the true blessed made earlier (Lk 11:28)—to signify those who receive and submit to his Father. Just as Jesus functioned only from, for, by and with the Father, his disciples follow him in function back to the Father, in the Father’s relational context and by his relational process (cf. Jn 14:6). The functional basis of Jesus’ person and the ongoing base for his sanctified life and practice become the functional basis of their whole person and the ongoing base for their life and practice to be sanctified by the relational work of God’s grace.

            Yet, this process shared together goes deeper than merely having a common origin or involving a commonality of association as believers—other connotations of “brother” (adelphos) and “sister” (adelphe). This is a relational progression that constitutes his followers in God’s family in relationship together as his sisters (including Mary) and brothers (cf. Mt 28:10, Heb 2:11,12); moreover, following Jesus in relational progression precludes reducing discipleship to christocentric practice.

            When the Father told Jesus’ disciples to “Listen to him!” (Mt 17:5), this is the relational outcome he implies and thus expects from following Jesus in the relational progression (cf. Rom 8:29). Any type of disengagement (in the form of resistance, omission, avoidance or any relational distance) from this relational progression by Jesus’ followers diminishes the experiential truth: of God’s thematic relational action (beginning in the primordial garden, Gen 2:18) for human wholeness, of the covenant kingdom of God’s people, of God’s vulnerable relational work of grace in the incarnation and the emergence of the new creation, and of the Spirit’s ongoing relational function to bring this to completion at the eschatological conclusion of the whole of God’s desires.
 

Relationship in Progression

             When we merely follow (or conform to) Jesus’ teachings and example, discipleship becomes more like a traditional rabbinic student as learner immersed in information from/about the teacher rather than an intimate relationship with the teacher’s person (cf. the rich ruler’s first critical error of relationship, Mk 10:17ff, discussed in chapter one). By revolving around the Teacher and Master more as a learner or servant, the relationship remains christocentric without progressing further and deeper. This is not how the Father told Jesus’ disciples to “Listen to him.” To “Follow me” takes the relationship with Jesus beyond the role of Teacher and Master, or Lord. We need to understand the developmental process of this relationship in progression.

            In the OT, God was ongoingly involved with the people of Israel in situations and circumstances. Yet, the presence of God was accessible only in limited contexts such as Mt. Sinai (Ex 19:11,20) and the tabernacle (God’s dwelling place, Ex 25:8,9; 40:34). This structure promoted a common perception of God as holy and transcendent. The incarnation functionally changes the context of God’s accessibility while maintaining the qualitative integrity of God as holy and transcendent. As Jesus disclosed, “I came from the Father” (ek, out of, indicating motion from whom he belongs), “and now I am…going back to the Father” (Jn 16:28). The motions “out of” and “back to” are a singular relational dynamic which is conjoined in the trinitarian relational context of family and by the trinitarian relational process of family love. The incarnation of Jesus’ whole person in sanctified life and practice was the continuous relational action fulfilling the whole of God’s thematic relational action beginning with the first Adam. The transcendent God was present now as never before and accessible in a further and deeper way. This reflects a strategic shift in God’s thematic action.

            The following discussion of this strategic shift (and related shifts to follow) should always be understood in the context of God’s thematic action for human persons to be whole—God’s metanarrative, as it were—which is briefly summarized:

Initiated with Adam for the human person not “to be apart” from the relationships necessary to be whole in the image of the triune God (Gen 2:18); formalized in the covenant with Abraham, yet not for a people in nation-state together as mere kingdom but for all peoples in relationship together as the family of God (Gen 17:1-8); partially fulfilled in the liberation of the Israelites from Egypt to be God’s people and the establishment of the Tent of Meeting (tabernacle) in their midst, yet only on God’s terms (signified by giving them the Law and the specific details for the tabernacle) for the sole relational purpose “so that I might dwell among them” (Ex 29:44-46); the promissory covenant with Abraham is extended and clarified with the Davidic covenant (2 Sam 7:5-16); and, with a strategic relational shift, now fulfilled in the incarnation of Jesus, whose only relational function was to constitute the whole person in the intimate relationships necessary to be whole together as the new creation of the triune God’s family (Jn 14:23; 17:21,23; cf. Gal 4:4-7, Eph 2:19-22); then, this is all brought to completion at the eschatological conclusion of God’s desires by the ongoing relational presence and function of the Spirit (Jn 16:13-14, Rom 8:11,23, 2 Cor 1:21-22, Eph 1:13-14; 2:22).

This is the integrating theme of all God’s relational work of grace that defines the context for discussing the following strategic, tactical and functional shifts by God in the incarnation.

            We need to also keep in focus that, as a function of relationship, God’s metanarrative is experiential truth; without this relational basis, it is reduced to merely information about a sovereign God with no relational significance, thus a gospel without relational clarity, which I suggest is the main reason many postmodernists reject God’s metanarrative.
 

Strategic Shift

             In the shift from a place (like the mountain or tabernacle), and from situations and circumstances, God becomes functionally accessible for ongoing involvement in direct relationship. This makes the transcendent God accessible to all peoples and persons, on the one hand, but, on the other, accessible only for the relationship-specific function together of God’s family. This then makes the holy God accessible for relationship only to those who respond in Jesus’ relational context and process—in other words, relationship only on God’s terms (cf. Jn 8:31-42). This strategic shift is made evident in a key interaction Jesus had with a Samaritan woman (see Jn 4:4-26).

            The relational significance of God’s strategic shift is magnified in this highly improbable interaction. For a Jewish rabbi to engage a Samaritan woman one-on-one in public required an act of redemptive reconciliation (to be discussed further in later chapters)—that is, to be freed from constraints of the old (and what defined them), and thus opened to vulnerably engage each other in the relationship of the new. Jesus tore down the constraint of “double jeopardy” (double discrimination based here on ethnicity and gender, without even considering her apparent social ostracism) for her and gave her direct access to a highly improbable, though ultimately unique, opportunity: unrestricted connection and intimate relationship with the whole of God.

            As Jesus vulnerably engaged her, she increasingly engaged him in vulnerable response. As he vulnerably asked her for water (Jn 4:7), she challenged his request (v.9). As he made his person more vulnerable to her (v.10), she exposed her interest in his source of water (v.11) and her curiosity about him (v.12), then vulnerably asked him for this water (v.15). As he tested the integrity of her person (v.16), she made her person vulnerable to him (v.17)—with both experiencing more of the other’s person in the openness of their interaction (vv.17b-19). This relational process is important to understand because it illustrates the relational significance of God’s strategic shift Jesus then disclosed to her.

            When her emerging person began to understand (theoreo) a deeper significance of the person engaging her (v.19), she turned the focus to God and the structure of religious practice (v.20). Yet, her focus should not be limited to the issue of worship but necessarily involved the accessibility of God. Perhaps she had doubts about accessing God if she had to participate in the prevailing practice. Any ambivalence at this point would be understandable, given her social standing in the community.

            Jesus assured her that the old was about to change (vv.21-22), and that the new “has now come” (vv.23-24). The strategic shift in the holy and transcendent God’s presence was being fulfilled before her. As Jesus vulnerably disclosed his whole person to her (v.26), the whole of God became functionally accessible for ongoing involvement in direct relationship. This shift to the new relational context and process, however, necessitates terms significant for compatibility. There is no relational progression with the accessible God without these ongoing terms: “in spirit and in truth” (vv.23-24).

            Jesus made clear that worship of (and relational involvement with) the whole of God must be on these terms. These are neither optional nor ideal terms but “must” (v.24); not opheilo, out of personal obligation or moral compulsion but dei, unavoidable, necessary by the nature of things, that is, by the nature of God and this relationship. Since Jesus disclosed the whole of “God is spirit,” this raised the issue again of access to the transcendent God. How do these terms functionally bridge the gap of transcendence to access God? The Samaritan woman then expressed her confidence (oida) that someday the Messiah “will explain everything to us” (anangello, to disclose freely, openly, v.25). Jesus responded even deeper by vulnerably disclosing his whole person to her: “I who speak to you am he” (v.26). And what Jesus made clear were the terms “in spirit and in truth.”

            This process may appear somewhat circular without resolving in function the issue of access to the transcendent God. It will remain without functional significance if the focus is only on the content of Jesus’ words. When Jesus said “I who speak to you,” the term for “speak” (laleo) is contrasted with a synonym term lego (“to say,” discourse involving the intellectual part of the person). Laleo does not emphasize the content of the speech but rather focuses on the reality of communication taking place (as opposed to no communication, cf. Heb 1:1-2). This focus on the factual act of communication makes the function of relationship primary, which is neither to discount what Jesus said nor to disregard the terms (“in spirit and truth”) disclosed as necessary. The significance of this is to account for and pay attention to the relational context and process, the nature of which these terms are necessary. In other words, “I who speak to you am he” was vulnerably disclosing both the relational context “out of” (ek) the holy and transcendent God for direct access, and then the relational process “back to” the whole of God for intimate relationship together—the “out of-back to” relational dynamic of Jesus’ person discussed earlier.

            The functional significance of “in spirit and in truth” can only be understood in the relational significance of the holy and transcendent God’s thematic action fulfilled in the incarnation of Jesus’ whole person (cf. Ps 33:11b). Though the Samaritan woman expressed no understanding of these words in his speech, she was experiencing their functional significance in their involvement together.

            Throughout the incarnation, Jesus’ whole person vulnerably disclosed the transcendent “God is spirit”—that is, the whole of God’s glory, thus who, what and how God is. This self-disclosure was both nothing less and no substitutes of God as well as only for relationship together. In the Father’s imperative to “Listen to him,” this is what the Father wanted his followers to pay attention to and also why. The what is of critical importance, not only for obvious theological reasons but more importantly for functional purposes.

            This raises two important questions. What if Jesus’ person were something less or some substitute of God, or what if the person Jesus presented in his life and practice were anything less or any substitute of his whole person, even as God? The former has been an ongoing theological issue, which Jesus’ first century adversaries tried to establish about him. Any revisionism of Jesus makes discourse about an accessible God insignificant, if not irrelevant. The latter question is a functional issue which essentially has been ignored. Yet, its critical importance has theological implications about the reliability of our Christology, and more importantly creates a functional problem of integrity for the relational involvement of trust. How reliable is your knowledge of someone if the person presented to you is anything less or any substitute of the who, what and how of that person? Moreover, how can you trust someone in a relationship if you can’t count on that person’s involvement to be beyond anything less or any substitute of the whole person?

            Jesus demonstrated to this woman that his involvement with her was nothing less and no substitutes of his whole person. This was congruent with his ongoing self-disclosure of the whole of God and, specific to her, opened access to the transcendent “God is spirit.” Something less or any substitutes would not have fulfilled this function for her, much less fulfilled the whole of God’s thematic action for all humanity. The implication is “I who speak am [here to openly disclose to you that spirit].”

            The incarnation makes accessible the presence of the holy and transcendent God. The glory of God in Jesus’ whole person makes evident the heart of God’s being, the core of the whole of the triune God, functionally for relationship (cf. Jn 1:14). The vulnerable presence of the very heart of God is the truth of who and what God is, and the functional significance of nothing less and no substitutes; and the intimate involvement of the very core of the whole of the triune God is the truth of how God is, and the relational significance of nothing less and no substitutes. The heart (core) and truth of God in Jesus are not revelations (apokalypto) of mere information but vulnerable self-disclosures (phaneroo) only for the intimate involvement necessary in relationship together as family. Thus “God is spirit” is disclosed by Jesus to be in function both vulnerably present and intimately involved. And the Samaritan woman could count on the reliability of who was disclosed to her because nothing less and no substitutes than the heart and truth of Jesus’ whole person fulfilled this function in the trinitarian relational process of family love. This was what she was experiencing from Jesus as the heart and truth of her own person opened to him. Those who respond back to God in this new relational context and process must by its nature function in likeness: “in spirit and in truth.”

            This strategic shift is made functional foremost in worship, which is the what of Jesus (the Father said) to pay attention to necessary in “the kind of worshippers the Father seeks” (v.23). In function, worship practice is the prime indicator of our ongoing relational involvement with God, which is the why of Jesus (the Father said) to pay attention to necessary for the kind of relationship the Father seeks to experience together.

            The interrelated connection between worship and relational involvement was further made evident by Jesus when he confronted those with rigorous religious practices without the significance of relational involvement (hypokrites, see Mk 7:1-8). He illustrated this in their worship practice, which became the mere expression of an outward identity, that is, in effect acting like an actor in a role (hypokrinomai, cf. ontological simulation): “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain” (vv.6-7). The term for “in vain” (maten) is an adverb used in a final sense to signify purposeless, useless, futile; in this context, while their practice likely had benefits for self-definition and value for socio-religious identity, it is useless for function in relationship with God. As long as “their hearts are far from me” (apecho, to be distant), there can be no change in this relational condition, and thus no relational progression.

            In other words, without relational involvement our worship practice (or any practice) has no relational significance to God—no matter how demonstrative, vibrant or intense. Without the qualitative function of our heart, our practice has no relational involvement with God—no matter how much activity, time and effort for God. The distance of our heart is always consequential to relationship with God—not to mention, to the qualitative significance of our practice. Life and practice in God’s likeness is only about relationship; sanctified life and practice must then by its nature be the function of relational involvement, thus of the heart. And the depth of relational involvement is always inversely proportional to the extent of distance our heart has. Moreover, the distance our heart keeps in a relationship is the primary indicator of the quality of our involvement in that relationship. The function of our heart thus becomes the principal benchmark for relational involvement, for what is necessary by nature to make relationships significant, and for what is basic to function in sanctified life and practice.

            The heart (core) of the person is the “spirit” disclosed by Jesus which is necessary and intrinsic to “God is spirit” in order to be involved with the Father (Jn 4:23-24). By vulnerably disclosing the heart of God’s being, the core of the triune God, Jesus made evident the transcendent “God is spirit” (this self-existing spirit distinct from all his creatures, who alone has life within himself and is the life-giver) as the present and involved “God is heart” (cf. Ps 33:9,11, leb, heart). This does not redefine the ontology of God but makes evident the strategic shift of God’s thematic relational action. Jesus is the hermeneutical key that opens this ontological door to the whole of God.

            The heart of God’s being is the aspect of God’s glory made accessible to us with which we can functionally connect for relationship together by God’s relational nature. This relational connection is possible (not improbable), however, only because of the ontology of the human person Jesus implied in “spirit,” which God seeks. That is, the God of heart, who was vulnerably disclosed to us, made us in the image of the whole of God. Simply stated, the God of heart made us persons of heart (cf. Ps 33:15, leb).

            As Jesus distinguished in the above practice of worship, Scripture consistently makes the functional (not ontological) distinction between the outer person and the inner, the distinction between what we are doing in outward behavior and what truly exists inwardly, and the importance of grasping the significance between them (see Deut 4:29, 1 Sam 16:7, Ps 51:16-17, Acts 15:8-10, Rom 2:28-29). This necessarily takes us back to creation.

            When God created the human person, an aspect of God was “breathed” into the person constituting the “inner person” (nepes, Gen 2:7); nepes has a quantitative aspect in which God created all living creatures (Gen 1:30) and a qualitative aspect created only in human persons. Though a defined “inner person” implies an “outer person”—which may appear to employ a dualism in defining the human person (inner and outer, spiritual and physical/material)—they are not substances to be perceived separately as in classic dualism from a Greek philosophical framework (notably from Plato). Rather the inner (center) and outer (peripheral) aspects of the person function together dynamically to define the whole person from the Hebrew concept. Thus one functional aspect should not be seen apart from the other, nor should either be neglected; this invariably happens in an outer-in approach to defining the person—which is why the above worship practice only paid attention to the outer, ignoring the inner. The theological issue then in human ontology and the functional issue in life and practice is: which aspect of the person has more significance and thus needs to have greater importance—though not at the neglect of the other aspect?

            In Hebrew terminology of the OT, the center of the person is the heart (leb); that is, conceptually, the “inner person” (nepes) that God “breathed” of the whole of God into the human person is signified by the heart (leb). The biblical proverbs speak of the heart in the following terms: identified as “the wellspring” (starting point, tasa’ot) of the ongoing function  of the human person (Prov 4:23); using the analogy to a mirror, also functions as what gives definition to the person (Prov 27:19); and , when not reduced or fragmented (“at peace,” i.e., wholeness), as giving life to “the body” (basar, referring to the outer aspect of the person, Prov 14:30), which describes the heart’s integrating function for the whole person (inner and outer together).

            This suggests the function of the heart signifying the “inner person”—which then is inclusive of the outer—involves two critically irreducible and irreplaceable functions:

  1. The definitive aspect for personhood that qualitatively integrates the whole person, thus the heart’s presence signifies the presence of the whole person and constitutes the involvement of the whole person in one’s life and practice.
  2. The basis of the person that wholly determines the significance of a person’s relational involvement with the vulnerable heart of God, specifically for intimate relationship together with the Trinity (in whose image the human person is created), the experience of which is constituted in the trinitarian relational context of family and by the trinitarian relational process of family love.

These two interrelated functions of the heart only begin to define the image of God “breathed” into human persons (discussed further in later chapters).

            The function of the intellect apart from the heart may be able to provide quantitative unity for the person—for example, the association of human parts and function described by scientific research. While this knowledge may be necessary at times, the function of the intellect is never sufficient by itself to define the whole person or to experience the relationships necessary to be whole, particularly with God. Reason alone can never describe the ontology of the person, human as well as Divine, nor does it define the qualitative function of relationships between persons. Only the heart provides the qualitative integration of the whole person made in the likeness of the God of heart; only the compatible heart provides the functional basis for experiencing intimate relationship (hearts coming together) with the whole of God constituted in the Trinity.

            This defines why the “God is spirit” (heart) seeks those “in spirit” (heart), who by nature must function in likeness of heart to be involved. The strategic shift of God’s thematic action makes evident that the whole of God’s desires are to be directly involved with the whole person for intimate relationship together as family. Since the function of the heart constitutes the relational involvement of the whole person, God cannot count on the whole person for this relational progression until it involves the heart with nothing less and no substitutes.

            As Jesus’ heart made his whole person vulnerable to the Samaritan woman, she increasingly opened her heart to be vulnerable to his person. Yet, the openness of her heart could easily have been obstructed by constraints she would either put on herself or allow to be placed on her. These would be tensions or fears caused mainly from the influence of reductionism. Consider the context and her position: concerns about how she would be perceived by Jesus, the community, his disciples, even her current partner could easily have created a barrier to be open to Jesus; concerns about whether she would be acceptable to Jesus or measure up to his expectations could easily have kept her heart at a distance and presented an inaccurate image, if not a false one. Merely intending to open her heart would not have been sufficient to prevent these matters, or any others, from distracting, diminishing or separating the function of her heart.

            These matters need to be redeemed, yet they need to be acknowledged for that to happen. This is the reason that what Jesus disclosed as that which the Father seeks and as necessary for deeper involvement with him included not only the heart but also “in truth.”

            Truth is not an abstract concept in the NT. When Jesus incarnated the truth, this was not a proposition and cannot be reduced merely to the operation of reason. The reduction of truth is to disembody truth. Jesus’ whole person changed the context of God’s accessibility by the relational dynamic “out of the Father, full of grace and truth” (Jn 1:14). As I discussed previously about “grace and truth,” truth is often rendered “faithfulness.” Truth then is embodied for a relational purpose and function. This is where the focus on truth needs to be because truth is a function of God’s thematic relational action to be accessible directly for vulnerable relationship together. Jesus the Truth functioned only “out of the Father” for this relational progression “back to the Father.” His faithfulness in this relational process is the only reliable basis to have confidence in his self-disclosures as who, what and how God is, as well as to be able to count on him as access to the whole of God for relationship together. The Truth is not about just the critical issue of authority but is embodied for the primary issue of relationship. Reductionism always diminishes this primacy of relationship and effectively substitutes alternatives from counter-relational work.

            The issue of truth cannot remain a doctrinal matter; such focus effectively becomes the reduction of truth, not its safeguard. As Jesus vulnerably disclosed to the Samaritan woman, the relational significance of the Truth is how the Word (God’s self-disclosure) needs to become flesh in our lives. The person of truth (faithfulness) is embodied in a person you can count on in relationship; you can count on that person’s word in what the person says as well as in what the person will do. You can also trust the presentation of that person to you because it’s true, valid, authentic—nothing less and no substitutes. This accurately reflects Jesus, the Word embodied.

            It is this truth for relationship—made evident and constituted by Jesus to make accessible the whole of God in the trinitarian context of family and relational process of family love—which the Father now seeks in us and from us in order to experience relationship together with us, just as Jesus vulnerably disclosed to this woman. And the Father tells us also to closely “Listen to him,” not for doctrinal purity but for relational intimacy, not for the authority of an institution but for the integrity of family—for intimate relationship together as the whole of God’s family. “Listen to him” who is the functional key that opens the relational door to the ontology of the whole of God’s family constituted in the Trinity.

            This truth embodied in and from us constitutes by nature the likeness of faithfulness Jesus demonstrated that God can count on for relationship. In the function of relationship the counterpart of truth is honesty, signifying the integrity of the person. This truth in us is the integrity of our whole person, thus the honesty of our heart which the Father seeks from us to be relationally involved together as family. The function of honesty in relationship keeps the heart open—for example, by acknowledging those matters needing redemption. Directly related in function, honesty also prevents anything less and any substitutes of the whole person—for example, no incomplete, substitute or false presentations of self, which a “mere” Samaritan woman experienced together with Jesus (Jn 4:18b) but is difficult to experience in prevailing church practice today. When God has the heart and honesty (“in spirit and truth”) of a person, God has the whole of who, what and how the person is. These are the terms necessary to be compatible for relationship with the whole of God—specifically for the relational progression in God’s strategic shift.

            Yet, the honesty of our heart as a basis for function is rarely discussed, much less made necessary for our life and practice with God. The implication, theologically and functionally, is that we don’t really “Listen to him!” The irony in this may be: the transcendent God is now more accessible to us than we are accessible to God; the heart of God is more vulnerable to us directly for relationship than we are vulnerable to God; the whole of God is ongoingly more intimately involved in relationship with us than we are ongoingly accessible and vulnerable in relationship with God. A further irony may involve maintaining God in transcendence in order, rightly, not to reduce God to human shaping, and in turn struggling functionally to access God, who has been constrained to be accessible and vulnerable by this predisposition or bias, thus in effect reducing the whole of God to functional deism. The deeper implication in all this, for which we have to account, is reinforcing counter-relational work, despite a theology to the contrary.

            In this strategic shift of God’s thematic action, the only significance of the vulnerable presence of the transcendent God is for relationship; and the only relationship that has relational significance to the whole of God is the intimate relationship together as family—that is, the relationships necessary by nature to be whole as God’s family constituted by the Trinity. Therefore, heart and honesty are what the whole of God vulnerably seeks and holds us accountable for, ongoingly. There is no relational progression without these irreducible and nonnegotiable terms. As the Samaritan woman experienced in her function even without theological understanding, heart and honesty are the main ingredients: for the primacy of relational involvement, first and foremost with God; for what are necessary by nature to make relationships significant; for what are basic to function in sanctified life and practice.

            Our theological reflections of human ontology and our functional formulations for life and practice must necessarily grasp the significance of this woman’s experience, and thus also account for the functional involvement of the whole person in the primacy of intimate relationships together necessary to be whole as God’s family. This is crucial to the experiential truth, for both the person and together as church, that Jesus made definitive as the only terms by what and how God does relationships. Otherwise, the gospel strains for lack of theological and functional clarity as well as suffers for lack of relational significance.

            In a further shift by Jesus, this gospel will be characterized as more of the improbable, thus neither a common or popular gospel.
 

Tactical Shift

             Any news about Messiah would be good news, especially for those who experienced discrimination and dispossession. It is not clear whether the Samaritan woman, and those following her, believed in Jesus merely as the expected prophet (Jn 4:28-29,39-42, cf. Deut 18:15-19), or also as God’s very self-disclosure. While the former was expected and probable, at least hoped for, the latter would be an improbable expectation, a paradoxical wish at best. This suggests the difficulty not only of explaining the holy and transcendent God’s presence and involvement but also grasping the significance of God’s strategic relational shift—a difficulty compounded if approached only by reason.

            Psalm 8 reflects on the involvement of the transcendent God and Creator with the human person and raises the question (paraphrase of v.4): What is the human person that this God is involved, how can this be? This question provides a transition from the strategic shift of God’s thematic action to God’s tactical shift within the incarnation.

            A partial theological answer to the question might be that the human person is not only God’s creation but created in God’s image as the epitome of God in all creation; thus in support of imago Dei, God maintains this involvement and caring (cf. God’s providence). Yet this is really the wrong question to be asking, or at least to focus on if it merely remains on the human person. Attempting to explain God’s action on the basis of what defines the human person is to conclude that human persons merit or warrant God’s action. This cannot be justified as the basis for moving the transcendent God to action. The appropriate question then to focus on becomes about God: Who and what are you that this is how you are—present and involved?

            While OT narrative and theology define no deistic God who is detached or distant, this is not sufficient to explain the holy and transcendent God’s vulnerable presence and intimate involvement. Even the strength of covenant expectations of God’s action prevailing in the intertestimental period (Second Temple Judaism) cannot adequately account for the relational significance of God’s strategic shift. The only answer to this question that can be offered for the improbable is: the relational nature of the heart of God’s being vulnerably extending the triune God’s relational work of grace.

            As the whole of God’s relational work of grace made a strategic shift with the incarnation, Jesus’ relational work of grace makes a tactical shift for further engagement in the relational progression. With this shift Jesus makes evident the gospel further in the improbable.

            The improbable is not only about the presence of the transcendent God but also about the involvement of the holy God, who must by nature be separate and distinct from what is common (cf. qados, Lev 10:10; 11:45). In the mystery of the holy God’s involvement, Jesus’ whole person demonstrated no relational separation from the common’s context (from micro to macro) in his sanctified life and practice. Yet Jesus’ relational involvement made evident the intrinsic qualitative distinction of his relational work of grace from the common’s function. This distinction of the holy God from common function underlies both the tactical shift for the relational progression as well as the functional significance of the gospel.

            Jesus emerged in the midst of a religious context pervasive with messianic and covenant expectations, with the surrounding context prevailing in cultural, economic and political stratification. On the one hand, these factors could have converged to create conditions highly conducive for Messiah. On the other, these factors could have also exerted divergent influences and pressure which would have made it less likely for the Christ to operate effectively. Jesus encountered the effects of both in his public ministry, yet neither effect made his ministry more successful or less fruitful, respectively. His tactical shift was not made for this reason. Though the probability for success or failure based on these factors had no relevance for Jesus, the presence of these factors had important relevance for two reasons. First, they helped define the common function from which Jesus functioned in distinction; and secondly they helped identify the common function from which persons needed to be redeemed.

            We had our first exposure to Jesus’ tactical shift when he called Levi to be redefined, transformed and made whole (review our discussion in chap. one, Mt 9:9-13). Levi’s story was about the gospel, which involved a complete Christology and a full soteriology. In calling Levi, Jesus demonstrated the new perceptual-interpretive framework distinct from what prevailed in common function. Jesus’ whole person crossed social, cultural and religious boundaries to extend his relational work of grace to Levi, who crossed those same barriers (for him) to respond to Jesus. In this highly unlikely relationship (given Levi’s status), Jesus made evident his tactical shift for engagement in the relational progression. This was demonstrated by the significance of their table fellowship together (including the presence of other tax collectors and sinners) after Levi’s response (Mt 9:10). Levi was not only redeemed from the old but freed for relationship together in the new; dinner together was not a routine activity for pragmatic reasons (as is the Western tendency today, especially in families) but a social communion signifying a depth of relationship together involving friendship, intimacy and belonging.[3] This relationship would transform Levi and make him whole, which Levi would experience even further in relational progression.

            This new relationship and gathering were not only improbable to observing Pharisees but unacceptable (v.11). Yet the holy Jesus in vulnerable presence and intimate involvement was not making evident a relational separation from the common’s context but the distinction of his relational work of grace from common function, even in religious practice. The most probable candidates to follow Jesus would be those with messianic expectations; others likely would be the economically poor. As a low-level tax collector Levi wouldn’t assume to be aligned to the former category, and he didn’t appear to be economically poor, though certainly not rich. These candidates represent, however, what is the expected from common function—those who warrant a response. Levi represents the qualitative distinction of Jesus’ relational work of grace from the common function of those who don’t warrant a response. This reflected the perception from a different lens of this new perceptual-interpretive framework.

            While celebrating Levi’s commencement in the relational progression, Jesus disputed these religious reductionists by clarifying his vulnerable presence, purpose and function (vv.12-13). In the strategic shift of God’s thematic action, the incarnation was only for direct relationship together as the whole of God’s family. As God’s ultimate response to the human relational condition “to be apart” from God’s whole, Jesus vulnerably functioned to call such persons to be made whole in the likeness of the Trinity. He made this evident by definitively declaring that these persons are qualitatively distinct (but not intrinsically distinguished) from the “the healthy” (ischyo, to be whole) and from “the righteous” (dikaios, congruence in actions to one’s constitutionally just, right character, which implies wholeness instead of disparity, vv.12-13). In other words, those who were not whole and who remained apart from the whole were the persons Jesus came to be vulnerably involved with in his relational work of grace in order to reconcile them back to the whole of God.

            “The sick”-“sinners,” whom Jesus called, were not those perceived by common function—that is, those commonly perceived by a surrounding context as sick or sinners. While Jesus certainly never ignored those defined as sick and sinners, he was involved further and deeper than merely with physical disease and moral/ethical failure. Levi was not suffering physical disease, though he likely was perceived as a sinner of moral/ethical failure, assuming the stereotype for tax collectors applied to him. Yet Jesus notably pursued Levi also for the “social illness” (distinguished from physical disease) he was suffering that made him part of “the sick” (kakos, v.12).[4] The term kakos not only denotes to be physically ill but also to be lacking in value. This suggests social interpretation (not medical) which labeled persons to be lacking in value. The consequence of having this label was exclusion from participating in valued relationships of the “whole,” thus suffering the social illness of not belonging. This expands our understanding of Levi’s condition as a tax collector, which was kakos (to be lacking in value), not ischyo (to be whole) and dikaios (to function in wholeness). Levi didn’t belong to the prevailing whole of the common context; Jesus changed Levi’s condition to belong (as a function of relationship, not merely membership) in God’s whole.

            This also deepens and broadens our understanding of sinners and the function of sin. In the trinitarian relational context and process vulnerably engaged by Jesus, sin is the functional opposite of being whole and sinners are in the ontological-relational condition “to be apart” from God’s whole. When sin is understood beyond just moral and ethical failure displeasing to God, sin becomes the functional reduction of the whole of God, thus in conflict with God as well as with that which is and those who are whole. Sin as reductionism is pervasive; and such sinners, intentionally or unintentionally, promote or reinforce this counter-relational work, even in the practice of and service to church.

            At Levi’s house Jesus responded to the sin of reductionism in religious practice, both to expose its perpetrators and to redeem his disciples for the relational progression. This involved his tactical shift, which was not about sacrifice and serving, that is, in the common function of the religious community (or a reductionist reading of Mt 20:28). Only Matthew’s Gospel has Jesus quoting “I desire mercy, not sacrifice” (9:13), which would not be unfamiliar to Jewish listeners and readers (quoted from Hos 6:6). The fact that Matthew has Jesus repeating this later, when his disciples were accused of unlawful practice on the Sabbath (Mt 12:7), is significant. The code of practice for Judaism was redefined by reductionism, thus these Pharisees did not understand the meaning of the quotation from Hosea. Jesus made it imperative to “Go and learn what this means.”

            Sacrifice (and related practice) was a defining term for Jews, and also has been defining for some Christians (e.g., by misunderstanding Lk 14:33, Mk 10:21). Yet God’s strategic shift to the incarnation was not about Jesus becoming a mere sacrifice on the cross. Moreover, Jesus’ tactical shift within the incarnation was not about a change from Messiah to servant. By referring back to Hosea, Jesus made two issues clear about the practice of sacrifice, not only for Jews but for all his followers: (1) sacrifice does not define the whole person, only a part of what a person may do, thus should never be used to define that person, just as what Jesus did on the cross should not define his whole person (or it becomes an incomplete Christology); (2) the practice of sacrifice neither has priority over the primacy of relationship nor has significance to God apart from relationship, thus its engagement must not reduce the priority and function of relational involvement.

            These two important issues apply equally to service, and the term sacrifice can be replaced by service in the above for the same application. This relational clarity and relational significance are crucial to grasp for both of them—particularly for the gospel of Jesus the Christ and his followers’ life and practice. Moreover, a reduction of this relational priority and function prevents us from formulating a complete Christology, specifically a sanctified Christology. Sanctified Christology embraces the whole of Jesus’ person functioning in sanctified life and practice as the intrinsic qualitative distinction from common function.

            Forms of sacrifice (particularly in Judaism) and forms of service (particularly among Jesus’ followers) without the relational involvement of the whole person both represent the common function of a religious community influenced by reductionism. Jesus’ vulnerable presence and intimate relational involvement were the qualitative distinction from this prevailing function of the common, necessary by nature to disclose access to the whole of God for the experiential truth of relationship together.

            In his relational work of grace, Jesus made evident the importance of Levi’s whole person and his need to be reconciled to the primary relationships necessary to be whole, functionally signifying his tactical shift for further engagement in the relational progression. For his followers to go beyond sacrifice and service “and learn [manthano, understand as a disciple] what this means [eimi, to be, used as a verb of existence, ‘what this/he is’],” they need to grasp the essence of Jesus’ person, not merely the meaning of these words in Hosea. That is, this is not the conventional process of learning as a common rabbinic student but the relational epistemic process characteristic of Jesus’ disciples. This then must by nature be the understanding experienced directly in relationship with Jesus.

            This relational involvement is what the full quote from Hosea expands on: “I desire mercy [hesed, love], not sacrifice, and knowledge [da’at, understanding] of God rather than burnt offerings” (Hos 6:6). This is not about knowing information about God, which was why those Pharisees never understood the significance of Hosea’s quote. God wants (“desire,” hapes, denotes a strong positive attraction for) the relational involvement of love in the intimate relationship together necessary to understand the whole of God. In other words, this is God’s deepest desire and priority over anything else done for God. Sacrifice and service never supersede relationship (cf. Jn 12:26). For his followers to get reduced in life and practice to sacrifice or service is to stop following Jesus in the relational progression to the whole of God. Such reductionism needs to be redeemed for the relationship to progress.

            In what would be an irony of conventional thought, what Levi experienced was extended to Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector who was rich. Yet the significance of this was the design of Jesus’ tactical shift, which made more evident his qualitative distinction from common function. The improbable with Levi seems to become even more improbable with Zacchaeus (see Lk 19:1-10).

            To become rich in this ancient community required power to accumulate wealth at the expense of others.[5] Chief tax collectors (Levi’s boss) in particular became rich often by their greedy management of a system which depended on imposing unjust taxes and tolls for greater profit. Low-level tax collectors like Levi merely did their dirty work. Zacchaeus not only bore this social stigma but clearly appeared to abuse his power to extort others by his own admission (19:8). He was a sinner in the eyes of all (not just the Pharisees, v.7), who apparently warranted no honor and respect despite his wealth—implied in not given front-row access to Jesus by the crowd, which he could have even paid for but had to climb a tree with dishonor instead (vv.3-4). The image of a short rich sinner in a tree and the Messiah coming together was a highly unlikely scenario.

            In this common context, Jesus said: “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must [dei] stay [meno, dwell] at your house today” (v.5). Jesus further made evident in the common’s context the intrinsic qualitative distinction of his relational work of grace from common function. This was not about hospitality necessary on his way to Jerusalem to establish a messianic kingdom. This went beyond the table fellowship of shared community or friendship. This relational shift of God’s thematic action was only for deeper involvement in the relational progression, which Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem to constitute in the new creation of God’s family.

            Given Jesus’ practice of observing purity as prescribed  by the law, he was not ignoring covenant practice in this interaction. Yet he functioned in clear distinction from the common function of covenant practices, which became a reduction to a code of behavior for self-definition (individual and corporate) rather than the relational function necessary by the nature of the covenant with God. A system defining human ontology and identity based on what persons do inevitably engages a comparative process which groups persons on a human totem pole. This explicit or implicit stratification reduces the importance of the whole person and fragments the primary relationships necessary to be whole. The consequence, even unintentionally among God’s people, is reinforcing the human condition “to be apart” from God’s whole.

            Though Zacchaeus certainly was not lacking economically, he lacked by any other measurement. Most importantly, he lacked the wholeness of belonging to the whole of God. This was the only issue Jesus paid attention to—in demonstration of his perceptual-interpretive framework. By this qualitative lens, he didn’t see a short rich sinner up in a tree but Zacchaeus’ whole person needing to be redefined, transformed and made whole. Zacchaeus also becomes a metaphor for all such persons, whom Jesus must (dei) unavoidably pursue by the nature of God’s thematic action. This metaphor for such persons, whom Jesus must “dwell with” (meno) by intimate relational involvement, also signifies the relational significance necessary for the gospel. Yet these are persons who will not be paid attention to, and thus not understood, without this qualitative lens. This is a metaphor which will not be understood, and thus ignored, without the new perceptual-interpretive framework.

            The reality of this new creation of God’s family is made evident in the experiential truth of the relational progression, which God’s relational work of grace initiates, Jesus’ relational work of grace constitutes and the Spirit’s completes. This was neither a response warranted by Zacchaeus nor an experience he could cause to happen. While Zacchaeus declared (in the Greek present tense) that he was already making restitution and helping to restore equity (19:8), this could also indicate an intention he assumed already as a foregone reality. Thus it would be an error to conclude that this was the basis for Jesus’ responsive declaration: “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham” (v.9). This was not the result of what Zacchaeus did, however honorable or repentant. This was only the relational outcome of Jesus’ relational work of grace: “For [gar, because] the Son of man came to seek and to save what was lost” (v.10). This verse determined the outcome in the previous verse.

            We need to understand the process of soteriology here in order not to have a truncated soteriology, which strains the gospel for lack of theological and functional clarity. The term “salvation” (soteria) comes from “a savior” (soter) which comes from the function “to save” (sozo). “Today salvation [from Jesus as savior] has come [ginomai, begins to be, comes into existence] to this house [oikos, a family living in a house], because [kathoti, to the degree that] this man, too, is a son of Abraham.” Doctrinal predispositions and biases of a truncated soteriology (involving only what we are saved from) and an incomplete Christology (e.g., reducing Jesus’ whole person to a role as savior) prevent us from perceiving the relational process involved here and grasping the relational progression inherent to salvation (and what we are saved to).

            Jesus’ whole person was vulnerably present and intimately involved with Zacchaeus for the relationship necessary to be saved. Jesus didn’t come merely to bring salvation into existence but to engage Zacchaeus for the distinct relationship to be saved “to the degree that he is a son of Abraham.” If this “degree” meant to the extent that Zacchaeus demonstrated adherence to the code of Judaism, then this was salvation coming into existence based on what Zacchaeus did to be identified with the lineage of Abraham. If “degree” involved to the extent that Zacchaeus engaged Jesus in the relational progression necessary to be saved, then this was salvation based on Jesus’ relational work of grace, not Zacchaeus’ lineage with Abraham. Jesus needed by nature to dwell at Zacchaeus’ house only for the latter, which will be made more evident in another interaction (viz. Jn 8:31-42, to be discussed shortly).

            What does it mean to be saved and what is this salvation that is not truncated? Limiting our discussion to the term “to save,” sozo denotes to deliver, to make whole. In Jesus’ relational work “to save,” sozo includes both and thus necessarily involves a twofold process: first, to deliver from sin and its consequence of death, and secondly to make whole in the relationship necessary together with the whole of God. Salvation (soteria) is a function of sozo. Soteriology then is truncated when it is only a function of the process “to deliver”—that is, only what we are saved from. A full soteriology necessarily is a function of sozo’s twofold process, which then must by its nature also involve “to make whole”—that is, including what we are saved to. This second function of the process is the significance of Jesus sharing directly with Zacchaeus “I must be [dei] relationally involved [meno]…” (v.5). This dei and meno “to make whole” constitutes the relational significance of the gospel, and thus also redefines the evangelism necessary to fulfill Jesus’ commission (to be discussed in chapter seven).

            What are we saved to and what is the relationship necessary together with the whole of God to make us whole? This directly involves Jesus’ tactical shift for further involvement in the relational progression. Levi and Zacchaeus had similar experiences of Jesus vulnerably pursuing them in their condition “to be apart” from the whole; and both directly experienced his intimate relational involvement for the purpose to be made whole. Yet each of these narratives emphasizes a different aspect of the relational progression; combining their experiences with Jesus into one relational process provides us a full view of the relational progression.

            The relational progression began with the call to “Follow me”—the call to be redefined, transformed and made whole. Relationship with Jesus as a disciple (mathetes) was a function of an adherent, the terms of which were only determined by Jesus.[6] This relationship went further than the common function of traditional rabbinic students as learners preparing for the role of teachers themselves some day. Jesus’ disciples served others (diakoneo) in various ways, yet with the paradigm making relational involvement with him the primary priority, not the work of serving (Jn 12:26, cf. 21:15-22). Disciples functioned as servants, ministers, deacons (diakonos), which tended to be perceived as the role of servant. Disciples became servants (cf. Mt 20:26-28), though with no fixed distinction between these identities.

            Servant (diakonos and the functional position of doulos, slave) did reflect movement in the relational progression, as Jesus implied (in Mt 20:26-27), but this does not define its relational conclusion. Unfortunately, our perceptions and practice of discipleship tend to be defined by a servant model, which may need redeeming (cf. Martha’s practice, Lk 10:38-42). Yet, Levi in particular did not give up his servant role to a chief tax collector merely for another form of servanthood. Table fellowship for Levi and Zacchaeus necessarily functioned to take disciples further and deeper in relationship together than as mere servants. Table fellowship demonstrated the relational progression to friendship, intimacy and belonging. Jesus clearly constituted this movement in the relational progression when he told his disciples: “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you” (Jn 15:15).

            Friendship in the ancient world was not loosely defined, as we experience it in the modern West. Though there were different kinds of friends, the four main characteristics of friendship involved: (1) loyalty (commitment), (2) equality, (3) mutual sharing of all possessions, and (4) an intimacy together in which a friend could share anything or everything in confidence.[7] A good servant (or slave) would experience (1). Good friends in the Western world today would certainly experience (2), hopefully (1), and less and less likely (4), but rarely (3). Modern perspectives tend to devalue (4) and magnify (1) and (2). Though his disciples never had (2) with Jesus, they experienced the others with him; Jesus demonstrated the first (Jn 15:13), the third (Jn 15:9,11; 16:14-15) and the fourth (Jn 15:15; 16:12-13), with (4) notably signifying the nature of their relationship as Jesus shared above. The disciples were inconsistent with (4) in their response, with Peter apparently the most open to share.

            The movement from disciple and servant to friend in the relational progression, however, is only a function of relationship together. It is not an outcome from sharing time and space, activity or work together, though it certainly involves these. Table fellowship between Jesus and his disciples signified the function of intimate relationship together in which everything could be shared—notably demonstrated in their last table fellowship together. This was not about sharing merely personal information but sharing one’s whole person. This relational involvement cannot be reduced to an activity, or shared time and space. Without the vulnerable presence of the whole person and the intimate relational involvement, there was no relational significance to whatever they did—including proclaiming the gospel. Jesus did not want mere loyal disciples and servants but friends to share intimate relationship together; he was vulnerably present and intimately involved “to seek and to save” persons for this relational progression to the whole of God. This relational process necessitates the intimate relational function of friends, nothing less and no substitutes.

            Yet, friends together is not what we are saved to. Though the function of friends is necessary in the relational progression, it is insufficient for the relationship necessary together to make us whole. The relational progression does not conclude in friendship with Jesus, which has become another contemporary misperception of Jesus shaped by reductionism to define our life and practice. In Jesus’ tactical shift demonstrated with Zacchaeus for his involvement in the relational progression, Jesus alluded to both: what we are saved to, and thus the relationship necessary to be whole.

            Their relationship together went further than the friendship of table fellowship, and their relational involvement went deeper into the relational progression. Though Zacchaeus’ salvation was not because of ancestry with Abraham , there was in effect relational connection as a son of Abraham, just as Jesus declared (Lk 19:9). That is, “to the degree that” (kathoti) Zacchaeus’ whole person was intimately involved with Jesus on the basis of God’s grace, Jesus redeemed him from the old (of the common’s function) and transformed him to the new as a son belonging in the family of God represented by Abraham. Thus in their intimate involvement together, Zacchaeus was constituted in Jesus’ very own relational context, the trinitarian relational context of family. In other words, the Son’s Father would also become Zacchaeus’ Father and they would effectively be brothers, as Jesus indicated after the resurrection (Jn 20:17, cf. Mt 12:50). This was what Zacchaeus was saved to, and this was the relationship necessary by nature to make him whole together in God’s whole—the relational progression to the whole of God, the Trinity qua family.

            The whole of God is constituted in the life of the Trinity. Yet the wholeness of the Trinity’s life is not signified by the titles of the trinitarian persons nor by the roles they perform. While each trinitarian person has a unique function in the economy of the Trinity, that neither defines their persons nor determines the basis for their relationship together—that is, how they relate to and are involved with each other. Their whole persons (not modes, nor tritheism) are neither ontologically apart from the others nor functionally independent, but always by the nature of God are relationally involved in intimate relationship together as One (perichoresis) by the relational process of love, functional family love (Jn 10:38; 14:9-11,31; 15:26; 17:10-11, Mt 3:17; 17:5). This is the whole of God, the wholeness of the Trinity’s life, which Jesus vulnerably shared for his followers to belong to and experience in likeness of the Trinity in order to be whole (Jn 17:21-26).

            Yet, belonging to God’s family is both a position and a function. As a position, this cannot be experienced by a servant (or a slave)—nor even by a disciple without full involvement in the relational progression—but only by a son or daughter as God’s very own. As a function, this cannot be fulfilled by a disciple, no matter how dedicated to serving or devoted to Jesus. Disciple and servant in effect become roles to occupy which are fulfilled by role players, that is, when involvement in the relational progression is not fully engaged. Belonging is only a relational function of those in relationship together with the Trinity in the position as God’s very own family.

            It is this relational function of family which Jesus made evident by the trinitarian relational process of family love. This points to the functional shift of Jesus’ relational work of grace to constitute his followers fully in the relational progression.
 

Functional  Shift

             In God’s strategic and tactical shifts, God’s thematic action coheres in Jesus’ relational work of grace in the trinitarian relational context of family and by the trinitarian relational process of family love. This coherence of action is fulfilled by Jesus’ whole person in sanctified life and practice, who vulnerably functioned by this process of family love. With this relational function of family love, Jesus demonstrated his functional shift for the deepest involvement in the relational progression in order to bring it (and his followers) to relational conclusion (not full completion). What is this family love specific to the trinitarian relational process?

            During their last table fellowship, Jesus intimately shared with his disciples-friends “I will not leave you as orphans” (Jn 14:18). While Jesus’ physical presence was soon to conclude, his intimate relational involvement with them will continue—namely through his relational replacement, the Spirit. This ongoing intimate relational involvement is clearly the dynamic function of the trinitarian relational process of family love, which directly involves all the trinitarian persons (Jn 14:16-18,23). Yet, the full significance (particularly as experiential truth) of this is not understood until we grasp the relational significance of Jesus’ use of the term “orphans” and his related concern.

            In their social context orphans were powerless and had little or no recourse to provide for themselves, which was the reason God made specific provisions for them in the OT (Dt 14:29, Is 1:17,23, cf. Jam 1:27). This might suggest Jesus was assuring his disciples that they would be taken care of. This would address the contextual-situational condition of orphans but not likely the most important issue: their relational condition. I suggest his disciples’ relational condition was Jesus’ only concern here.

            Orphans essentially lived relationally apart; that is, they were distant or separated from the relationships necessary to belong to the whole of family—further preventing them from being whole. Even orphans absorbed into their extended kinship network were not assured of the relational function of belonging. What addresses an orphan’s relational condition is the process of adoption. The relational condition “to be apart” from God’s whole and to not experience the relational function of belonging to the whole of God’s family would be intrinsic to orphans; and this defines the relational significance of Jesus’ concern for his disciples not to be relational orphans. Without adoption this relational condition remains unresolved, Therefore, Jesus’ relational work of grace by the trinitarian relational process of family love enacted the process of adoption, together with the Spirit (Jn 1:12-13, cf. Rom 8:15-16, Gal 4:4-7).

            Whether adoption is viewed as a distinct salvific act or merely a metaphor, the qualitative relational outcome from Jesus’ intimate involvement of family love constitutes his followers in relationship together with the whole of God as family, so that Jesus’ Father becomes their Father and they become “siblings” (Jn 20:17, cf. Is 63:16). If the functional significance of adoption is diminished or minimalized, the relational consequence for our life and practice is to function in effect as relational orphans. In the absence of his physical presence, Jesus’ only concern was for his followers to experience the ongoing intimate relational involvement of the whole of God—which the functional shift of his relational work of grace made permanent by adoption. This relational action constituted them fully in the relational progression as family together, never to be “let go from the Trinity as orphans” (aphiemi, as Jesus said).

            Functional and relational orphans suffer in the human condition “to be apart” from God’s whole, consequently they lack wholeness. While this is a pandemic relational condition, it can also become an undetected endemic functional condition among his followers and in church practice. It is an undetected condition when it is masked by the presence of ontological simulations and epistemological illusions from reductionist substitutes—for example, performing roles, fulfilling service, participation in church activities and membership, yet without the functional involvement of the whole person and without the relational involvement together in family love. When Christian life and practice is without this relational significance, it lacks wholeness because it effectively functions in the relational condition of orphans, functional and relational orphans. This then suggests the likelihood that churches today (particularly in the global North) function more like orphanages than family (to be discussed in chapter eight). This makes evident the need to be redeemed further, which the relational function of family love directly and ongoingly addresses for relationship together as family in likeness of the Trinity.

            In its most basic function, the trinitarian relational process of family love can be described as the following action by the whole of God:

The Father sent out his Son, followed by the Spirit, to pursue those who suffered being apart from God’s whole, reaching out to them with relational involvement, making provision for their release from any constraints or payments to redeem them from any enslavement; then with this relational connection, taking these persons back home to the Father, not to be mere house guests nor to become household servants, but to be adopted by the Father and thus permanently belong in his family as his very own daughters and sons.

This is the essence of the Trinity’s family love, which makes evident both the relational significance of God’s relational work of grace as well as the qualitative distinction of Jesus’ relational involvement from common function.

            By the relational nature of the Trinity, the trinitarian relational process of family love is a function always for relationship, the relationship of God’s family. These are the relationships functionally necessary to be whole which constitutes God’s family. That is, family love is always constituting and maturing God’s family, thus family love always: pursues the whole person, attends to redeeming persons, and addresses the involvement necessary in relationships to be whole as family together in likeness of the Trinity. In other words, family love functionally acts on and with the importance of the whole person to be involved in the primacy of intimate relationships together of those belonging to God’s family. When the trinitarian relational process of family love is applied to the church and becomes functional in church practice, any church functioning as an orphanage can be redeemed to truly function as God’s family together. Then its members will not only occupy a position in God’s family but also take up and experience the relational function necessarily involved in belonging to God’s family.

            In this functional shift, Jesus’ relational function of family love vulnerably engaged his followers for the deepest involvement in the relational progression to the whole of God’s family. This necessarily involved: being redefined (and redeemed) and being transformed (and reconciled) in order to be made whole together as family in likeness of the Trinity. This redefined-transformed (redeemed-reconciled) relational dynamic of family love must (dei) by nature be an experiential truth for this wholeness to be a reality of authentic belonging to God’s family. This was made further evident by Jesus when his family love exposed the ontological simulation and epistemological illusion of family, along with its counter-relational work (see Jn 8:31-47).

            The trinitarian relational process of family love always functions for the relationship of God’s family, thus always both matures as well as constitutes God’s family. Family love also then necessarily involves clarifying what is not a function of God’s family, even contending with what is not authentically God’s family. The issue of authenticity is an ongoing concern of family love. Jesus’ relational involvement demonstrated this necessary function in the context of his well-known saying, which loses its relational meaning and significance apart from this context.

            When Jesus said “you will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (Jn 8:32), it is important to understand that these words have both a structural contingency and a contextual contingency. Both contingencies are interconnected by relationship, the outcome of which by necessity involves the relational process of the relational progression.

            This well-known saying of Jesus is structurally contingent on the previous verse, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples” (v.31). The term for “teaching” (logos) involves the essence of Jesus’ whole person, not merely his principles, directives and propositions; “my teaching” cannot be disembodied. The term for “hold” (meno) is the same word Jesus told Zacchaeus (“must stay,” Lk 19:5) and the rest of his disciples (“remain,” Jn 15:4-11), which involves the relational act of abiding, dwelling. Jesus was making evident the dynamic reciprocal relational process of intimate involvement together. Each time he identified their part in the relationship with the word “remain” (in Jn 15:4-11) a relational outcome was also identified. This relational outcome reflected the authenticity of being his disciples (15:8), which is the structural contingency of Jesus’ well-known saying. Yet, disciples are authentic (alethes, Jn 8:31) not by having a title or status, nor by occupying an identity or fulfilling a role, but only by deep involvement in the reciprocal relational process with Jesus’ whole person in relational progression—the relational significance of “Follow me” (cf. Jn 12:26).

            The relational process of the structural contingency connects it to the contextual contingency. Deep involvement with Jesus’ whole person engages the embodied Truth, which results in the intimate experience of knowing him. Truth is only for this relationship, the outcome of which makes evident the contextual contingency. When the embodied Truth is known by the reciprocal relational process of intimate involvement together, the embodied Truth functions in the relational involvement of family love to “set you free” (eleutheroo, liberate, Jn 8:32). The redemption Jesus pointed to , however, has a contextual contingency.

            The embodied Truth is the fulfillment of God’s thematic action, the strategic shift of God’s relational work of grace. God’s self-disclosure as the Truth is only for this relational outcome. Liberation (redemption, padah) was initially enacted by God for the Israelites as partial fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant for the purpose of life together (Ex 29:46). To be redeemed was never merely to be set free; it was always for relationship together. Moreover, redemption was relationship-specific to the whole of God’s family together only on God’s terms.

            In this well-known text Jesus made evident that the holy God is accessible for relationship together as the triune God’s family only to those who respond in Jesus’ relational context and process. His words must be understood in the context of God’s thematic action as well as this immediate context. By the strategic, tactical and functional shifts of God’s relational work of grace, Jesus fulfilled God’s thematic action, thus also defining the contextual contingency of his well-known words. The embodied Truth is the relational means necessary by which his followers are liberated from their enslavements (or released from an undesirable relational condition) for the specific relational purpose and outcome, so that they can be adopted as the Father’s very own daughters and sons, thus intimately belonging to his family permanently (meno, Jn 8:34-36).

            As the immediate context further defines in contrast, an indentured servant (doulos) is not free to experience God as Father and participate (meno, abide) in his family as his own child; such a servant must be redeemed first, then must be adopted to belong. This combined context makes evident the contingency of adoption. Redemption is never an end in itself but a relational process always connected to the vital relational outcome of adoption. And this contextual contingency is not fulfilled without the structural contingency of deep relational involvement with Jesus’ whole person in the relational progression. These contingencies  interact in this relational process of the relational progression to effect this relational outcome.

            In this context, Jesus’ family love also addressed ontological simulation and epistemological illusion of family. The Jews, who had believed Jesus (8:31), objected to Jesus’ well-known saying with a question, which is implied by many of us today in one way or another: “We have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” (v.33). They claimed two conditions about themselves: one, membership in God’s family as Abraham’s descendents; and, two, never having been a slave to disqualify them from belonging to God’s family. Authenticity is the issue of debate here. While there was no argument from Jesus about their position as biological descendents of Abraham (sperma, v.37a), that was insufficient basis for belonging to God’s family. The polemic implications: they were merely functioning in an ontological simulation of family because they never knew who they truly were, and thus how they defined their identity and practiced relationships by reductionist substitutes (vv.38-42); also, their self-understanding of their second condition (no enslavement) suffered from an epistemological illusion of family because their self-knowledge was never aware of what they truly were, and thus how their reductionist perceptual-interpretive framework predisposed and biased them in counter-relational work rejecting God’s relational work of grace vulnerably before them (vv.43-47). Consequently, they demonstrated their own need to be redeemed.

            The human relational condition “to be apart” from God’s whole is pandemic (and enslaving, v.34), and critically endemic to those who labor in ontological simulations and epistemological illusions of God’s family. Whatever form these may have in church practice today (including an orphanage), these persons have no position of significance nor belong with relational function in God’s family as long as the adoption process is not complete. Without the relational reality of adoption, a church functions in a reductionist substitute, at most, and engages in counter-relational work, at least (the implications of vv.43-44). And without experiencing redemption in intimate relationship with the embodied Truth, there is no other relational means for the outcome of adoption.

            In the functional shift of Jesus’ relational work of grace, his family love wholly constituted his followers—by the relational progression to the whole of God—in the relationships necessary to be whole together as the triune God’s very own family. This is the only relational outcome that is congruent with God’s thematic action, which Jesus’ whole person vulnerably fulfilled with his strategic, tactical and functional shifts in the trinitarian relational context of family and by the trinitarian relational process of family love. This is the only relational significance the authentic gospel of Jesus the Christ has—nothing less and no substitutes. And without this relational significance, the gospel is reduced to a truncated soteriology only about what we are saved from.
 

Functional Implications

             While the theological community needs to pay serious attention to an incomplete Christology and a truncated soteriology, churches cannot ignore these issues because God  holds us all accountable for the whole of Jesus’ self-disclosures—just as he did with the two on the road to Emmaus. What churches practice is rooted in their Christology; and church mission is determined by their soteriology. Thus, churches need to examine their ecclesiology: what is it based on, what does it pay attention to and what does it ignore, and how compatible is its practice with God’s thematic action?

            Jesus openly asserted, “Blessed are those who hear the word of the Father and relationally respond” (Lk 11:28), “they are my family” (Mt 12:50). The Father vulnerably shared, “This is my Son, whom I love…Listen to him!” (Mt 17:5). The Son communicated the Father’s words (Jn 12:49-50) and functioned only for the Father (Jn 14:31) and his family (Jn 17:6-8); and the Father expressed his affection for his family and directed the attention to his Son for the purpose of their family. These vulnerable assertions are conjoined in their mutual relational context and process for the same relational outcome. And their conjoint function was made evident by the relational significance of God’s thematic action in the incarnation of Jesus’ relational work of grace and his relational involvement in the relational progression (as a complete Christology), which constitutes his followers in the relationships necessary to be the whole of God’s family (as a full soteriology).

            Moreover, as communication implied throughout the incarnation, their assertions interacted together to establish the new perceptual-interpretive framework, providing the lens to determine what to pay attention to and ignore. For example, we cannot ignore the implications of Jesus saying “they are my family” because the Father says “listen to him, who communicates my words.” And we cannot pay attention to the Son disclosing the Father’s words (which is not just their content) and their functional implications while ignoring the Father and the relationships necessary to be whole together as his family, because Jesus functioned only for the Father and his family—which the Father said to pay attention to. This is the holy and transcendent whole of God vulnerably disclosed to us—as improbable as it appears. To pay attention to anything less and any substitute, or to ignore the relational significance of nothing less and no substitutes, demonstrates the lens from a reductionist perceptual-interpretive framework, which reduces Jesus, the Father, and thus the whole of the Trinity.

            The authentic church is the ongoing function of the Son’s and the Father’s assertions conjoined in its own practice, thus determining what the church pays attention to and what it ignores. Though the tension between the improbable of Jesus’ sanctified life and practice and the probable of common function—and its practical implications for church life and practice—is persistent and makes a church susceptible to reductionism, the ongoing involvement together in the relational progression “in spirit and truth” (with honesty of the heart) is the relational process necessary to redeem, to constitute and to mature a church as God’s family. This only is whom the Father seeks, the who, what and how of God Jesus vulnerably disclosed to the Samaritan woman for a compatible relational response, and why the Father says pay attention to him.

            Churches are under pressure in effect to renegotiate its involvement in the relational progression by reducing the relational imperatives of discipleship and reprioritizing the primacy of intimate relationships, yet their alternatives have no relational significance to God. Despite how some alternatives may currently fill up a church, the result is only an ontological simulation and epistemological illusion of family—a collection of relational orphans who don’t authentically belong to God’s family. Even the traditional servant model is inadequate to define Jesus’ whole person and to constitute his followers in the relational progression to God’s family. These alternatives all stop at some point along the relational progression and disengage from its relational process. Yet, engaging the trinitarian relational process of family love can redeem, constitute and mature a church as God’s family. This is how Jesus vulnerably functioned by family love to constitute his followers as who they truly are and whose they truly are, and why the Father says pay attention to him.

            While a church may still struggle or strain to make connection with the transcendent God, its most important struggle or challenge is to maintain a compatible connection with the holy God. The holy God, who is qualitatively distinct from common function, is the whole of God Jesus made vulnerably accessible. And this holy God is not only vulnerably present but also intimately involved. However, since Jesus’ sanctified life and practice functioned in this qualitative distinction from common function, this made much of his life and practice distinct from what prevailed in the surrounding context—or improbable from what we’re accustomed to. This is a functional issue for the church: the tension between the improbable face of Jesus and our desire (or even need) for more probable practices, that is, which effectively are compatible with our prevailing function. To be distinct from prevailing function has personal implications, not the least of which involves being redefined and thus different.

            Though he was in the common’s context, Jesus vulnerably disclosed the presence of the holy God only in the trinitarian context; and the whole of God is present and involved only by the trinitarian relational process. Relational connection with the holy God must by nature be on terms distinct from common function and compatible with the holy God’s terms. In other words, the functional implication is that Jesus’ whole person reshaped the bell curve of probable practices. The experiential truth is that to follow his person in the relational progression reshapes the curve of probable church practices. The functional issue (maybe even theological) then becomes: do we allow Jesus to reshape the curve to change our practices to the more improbable range, or do we reduce Jesus’ whole person by disembodying his teachings and examples, while selectively paying attention to them or even ignoring them, in order to maintain a probable range of practice?

            God’s thematic action (metanarrative) and the narratives of Jesus make evident: The transcendent and holy God was embodied in Jesus’ whole person, who “came from” and went “back to” the Father in an unaltered relational dynamic, which was conjoined in the trinitarian relational context of family and by the trinitarian relational process of family love; Jesus the Truth came to constitute his followers in the relational progression back to the whole of God. While revisionism of these narratives can be attempted, this improbable action by God cannot be reduced. And while revisionism of its functional implications can be achieved, following Jesus’ whole person in the relational progression to the whole of God as family together can never be a common function and will always remain in the improbable range of the curve.

            Thus, the unavoidable issue for all of us is: what are we going to do with the relational progression, individually and together as church? Any type of disengagement (in the form of revision, substitutes, resistance, omission, avoidance or any relational distance) from this relational progression by Jesus’ followers diminishes the experiential truth: of God’s thematic relational action for human wholeness; of the covenant kingdom of God’s people; of God’s vulnerable relational work of grace in the incarnation and the emergence of the new creation of God’s family; and of the Spirit’s ongoing relational presence and function to bring this to completion at the eschatological conclusion of the whole of God’s desires. Whatever gospel is leftover, both to experience together and to share with others, strains for lack of theological and functional clarity and/or suffers from lack of relational significance, both of which cannot be resolved apart from the full relational progression.

            Any alternative to relational involvement in the relational progression becomes in effect counter-relational work reducing the relationships necessary to be whole. The functional opposite of being whole is sin. For those unsettled by the improbable, it is a discomforting truth to grasp: sin is the functional reduction of the whole of God, thus in conflict with God as well as with that which is and those who are whole. The church needs to pay attention to sin, in particular in the practice of and service to church. The bad news shaping the gospel today is the function of sin as reductionism pervading our churches, including the Christian academy.

            These are matters which either reflect change or require change from prevailing practice. This change can only be the outcome of redemptive change; that is, these matters (and their common function) need to be redeemed in order to change. Yet, they must first be acknowledged for this redemptive process to happen. This is the importance of truth and the honesty of our hearts—a necessary basis for function in our life and practice with God, which the Father seeks. Whatever truth we claim and proclaim only has significance for this relationship, the relationship of the whole of God. Until we theologically and functionally grasp the relational significance of the triune God vulnerably disclosed in the incarnation, and thus account for the functional involvement of the whole person in the primacy of intimate relationships together necessary to be whole as God’s family, whatever truth we have will lack the experiential truth of by what and how the Trinity only does relationships.

            “Listen to him” for a complete Christology. “Hear the word of the Father, and relationally respond” for a full soteriology. The gospel we claim and proclaim depends on it—nothing less and no substitutes.

 

 



[1]  For a discussion on labeling, see Santiago Guijarro, “The Politics of Exorcism” in Wolfgang Stegemann, Bruce J. Malina, Gerd Theissen, eds., The Social Setting of Jesus and the Gospels (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2002), 162-164; and for a discussion on stereotypes, see Bruce J. Malina and Richard L. Rohrbaugh, Social Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992), 353-354.

[2]  For example, see Craig Evans, “Context, Family and Formation,” in Markus Bockmuehl, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Jesus (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 14; also Jerome H. Neyrey, Honor and Shame in the Gospel of Matthew (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1998), 54-55; and John W. Miller, Jesus at Thirty: A Psychological and Historical Portrait (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1997), 13-16.

[3]  For further discussion of table fellowship by Jesus and the Mediterranean world, see S. Scott Bartchy, “The Historical Jesus and Honor Reversal at the Table” in Wolfgang Stegemann, Bruce J. Malina, Gerd Theissen, eds. The Social Setting of Jesus and the Gospels (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2002), 175-183.

[4]  For a discussion on disease and illness in the Mediterranean, see John J. Pilch, “Healing” in John J. Pilch and Bruce J. Malina, eds. Handbook of Biblical Social Values (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1998), 103-104.

[5]  For a discussion on rich and poor in the Mediterranean context of the NT, see Bruce J. Malina, The New Testament World: Insights from Cultural Anthropology (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2001), 97-100.

[6]  For an in-depth study of mathetes, see Michael J. Wilkens, Discipleship in the Ancient World and Matthew’s Gospel (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1995).

[7]  Craig S. Keener reports this information on friendship in The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 302.

 

 

©2008 T. Dave Matsuo, Ph.D.

 

 

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