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Longing for Perichoresis

• Greg Boyd

The term “perichoresis” was used by the church many hundreds of years ago to describe the inner life of God, which includes the Father, Son and Holy Spirit fully knowing one another. This is sometimes artistically illustrated by a divine dance, which God wants us to become a part of as well. In Christ, God has made a way to include us in the dance even though we do not deserve to be included, and we persistently resist the movements required (full transparency, self-sacrifice, interest in the other over ourselves, etc.).

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Greg introduced a new term today (if you have been here for a number of years, you may have hear this term in the past): “perichoresis.” This word was used by the church many hundreds of years ago to describe the inner life of God. The inner life of God includes the Father, Son and Spirit and each of them knows and is fully known by the others. Perichoresis means “mutually indwelling,” or “to interpenetrate,” that each of the persons of the Trinity is present in the others but yet they are still distinct as persons. This is a very difficult concept to grasp because our human existence reflects this so poorly but we can make some progress if we use an idealized marriage as an analogy. A husband and wife are ideally supposed to be fully transparent and available to their spouse. They interact without fear, shame, or wonder about whether they will be accepted for who they are and they accept fully their partner. We can press our imaginations to include the idea that this ideal couple would have literally NO secrets from one another and no brokenness in their relationship. Our analogy envisions just two people, but the perichoresis of God affirms all of these things about not only two in the divine Godhead, but three. Another human analogy makes this more concrete and gives rise to an image that regularly appears in artistic expressions of God. The divine dance. This analogy is so fitting because it captures the living, dynamic nature of the life of God and the movement of God’s love from one to the others within the Trinity.

Not only is God like this, but God wants us to enter this divine dance as well – even though we have thoroughly demonstrated that we are not to be trusted when it comes to self-sacrifice for the other and full self-disclosure (two necessities of perichoretic relationships). In Christ, God has made a way to include us in the dance even though we do not deserve to be included and we persistently resist the movements required (full transparency, self-sacrifice, interest in the other over ourselves, etc.). This dance is eternal in nature. God is always doing this. Always. We are always invited to join this dance. If we connect this idea to what Greg has been teaching about the moment-by-moment nature of the life of faith we arrive at a beautiful picture. God is always ready and waiting with a hand out-stretched to you asking, “Will you dance with me? Never mind that you don’t know how to do this, I will lead, but will you follow?”

Greg began his sermon with a quick demonstration that persons, neither divine nor human are intended to be alone. On the human level, it is clear from Gen. 2:18 where the first time that God says something is not good is when God sees that Adam is alone. No dance partner that is essentially like Adam. Not good. The point is clear, we were made to dance. God is not a solitary person, and neither should human beings—made in the image of God—be solitary. From there, Greg awakened us to the inherent need we feel for perichoresis. We sense the longing of knowing others and being known, loving others and being loved, understanding others and being understood. We know the inner healing it does when we feel loved, known, understood and accepted in the midst of our messy lives.

God, in Christ, extends the perichoretic relationship, the divine dance, to all of creation by penetrating creation in the incarnation. When God was born on earth, the world was in a fundamentally new relationship with God. God was now in our midst in a way that was not true prior to that. God was truly doing a new thing! This is what the Christmas story is about! God penetrates our existence and demonstrates through Jesus that God loves us, knows us and accepts us and offers us an opportunity to respond in kind. The dance is only complete if we yield to it. We often think that our sin prevents us from dancing, but God addressed this head on, “For our sake God made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Not only does God ask us to dance, God offers us what we need to enter fully into such a dance! Will we yield to this offer? Will we let God lead?

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Topics: Salvation, Trinity


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Focus Scripture:

  • Genesis 2:18

    The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him."

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