The great English writer and poet Christopher Dawson said poetry is “the language in which man explores his amazement.” The same could be said of all great art, literature and philosophy. Yet above all this much more can be said about Christian faith. I believe we can only become truly open to eternal love when we have the “eyes to see.” These “eyes” come from grace alone.
The biblical statement “God is love” cannot be reduced to “God is loving toward us” or “God performs loving actions.” The statement “God acts in a loving way” is true but even this affirmation speaks of what God does. The biblical affirmation that “God is love” goes much, much further. It introduces us to the interior life of God – thus we can and should say that God is more than loving – because God is triune. As triune God’s love existed before anything created ever existed. Here is how the apostle expresses this when he writes of his own experience of God’s revelation in Jesus Christ:
We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us— we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete (1 John 1:1-4, NRSV).
The true God is revealed in a relationship that results in us entering into communion with the Father and the Son. The entire discourse of our Savior given on the night in which he was betrayed and went out to face his own death (John 13-17) uses the language of communion and relationship. The prayer Jesus prayed for us, who believe in him today, is astounding when read in terms of this relational language idea. Read this prayer and realize that this is the Lord’s Prayer, at least the Lord’s Prayer for you and me. I have highlighted the portions of Jesus’ prayer that demonstrate the relational mystery of our union with the Trinity.
“I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world (John 17:20-24, NRSV).
Words like these underscore the truth that we call the social Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit in eternal communion. Salvation is much more than rescue from perdition. It is a relationship of love that binds us to each person of the Trinity through the mystery of redeeming grace. This revelation of the divine mystery of God’s being means that God is eternally relational. This also means that whether anything else existed or not God would still be eternal love because the three persons who comprise the one God are a “relational” and “eternal” Trinity. The important thing to see here is that God is not an impersonal being with an abstract nature. The God who reveals himself is Father, Son and Holy Spirit – a living, joyous, interpersonal reality. “At the core of all being, there was, and there is, fully actualized mutual love, an indescribably rich, inimitably relational, intensely personal plenitude.” (In material I propose to write on the Trinity I will look at this truth much more carefully at a later date.)