Today the Church celebrates the revelation of God as the Holy Trinity.
We Christians do not believe that God is a distant, cosmic force, an idea in our minds or a feeling in our hearts. We also do not believe that our opinions determine who or what God is. Instead God reveals himself to us in an extraordinary way and it is through this revelation that we come to know who God is and what God asks of us.
This revelation is Jesus Christ.
Sure, it is true that we can come to know of God’s existence through the our power to reason, but knowing of God’s existence or knowing something about God, is not the same thing as God’s revelation in Christ. Whatever it is we can know of God or do know about God, it is Jesus Christ, we Christians believe, that clarifies the matter and brings what we know about God to its proper fulfillment.
Jesus Christ is the revelation of God.
This means that we Christians do not accept that Christ is merely a great man of history or a philosopher of religion or a political activist. We also do not believe that the primary purpose for which Christ revealed himself was so that he could teach us about ethics or how to behave.
Christ is God or he couldn’t be the revelation of God. What the Lord Jesus presents to us is not a theory about God, but God himself, and it is his revelation that also reveals that the one, true God is the Holy Trinity.
Look at it this way, when Christ speaks about God he indicates that the one God is a relationship. Remember, Christ speaks of God as his Father with whom he relates to as the Son and this Father and Son relate to one another, and their relationship is called the Holy Spirit. This is whom Christ reveals the one, true God to be- a relationship that Christ describes as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
In the course of human history, people have spoken about God in many ways and called God many things, but when God reveals himself in
Christ, he tells us how to best speak about him and what to call him, and what Christ tells us is that one God is the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. This one God who reveals himself in Christ to be Father, Son and Holy Spirit is what we Christians call the Holy Trinity.
The Holy Trinity is not the invention of theologians. It is not a theory about God or an idea about God. The Holy Trinity is who and what Christ reveals God to be. And if you are a Christian, then you accept the revelation of God in Christ as being true.
Thus we Christians privilege the language with which Christ speaks about God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We do not seek to change it to suit our whims or ideologies or replace Christ’s language about God with something we think is better. We accept it, because God in Christ spoke to us about his identity in this unique manner. God in Christ could have spoken to us and taught us about God in a different way, but he didn’t. And because he didn’t the Church testifies to how Christ spoke and about God.
In other words, if we are Christians, we have to believe that God is who Christ reveals God to be- that he is the Holy Trinity, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
God in Christ reveals who God is, but he doesn’t explain to us how God is the Holy Trinity. In this regard, saints and scholars and mystics have proposed ideas, and some of these insights are truly profound, indeed helpful, but none constitute an explanation as to how God is the Holy Trinity. We have to believe as Christians that the one, true God is the Holy Trinity, but in terms of how God is the Trinity, Christ has left this veiled in mystery.
The purpose of this mystery is perhaps to indicate to us that God is not a problem for humanity to solve, but a relationship into which we are invited. Christ reveals that God can be known personally, and that he desires to be in a relationship with us. This relationship is a called a covenant. Christ indicates that the best way to understand the relationship or covenant that God offers to us in Christ is friendship.
This means that if we approach God as a problem to be solved, then he will remain mostly elusive. We might come to know that he exists, but we will not know him as he wants to be known- as a person with whom we enter into a relationship. The saints, who come to know God better than anyone else, never approach God as a problem to be solved, but instead they bask in God’s mystery, loving God for who he reveals himself to be in Christ, rather than trying to figure God out or make him into a math problem or a science experiment.
A merely human relationship would go nowhere if we treated the other person as a problem to be solved or as a science experiment. It’s no different with our relationship with God.
Christ reveals that our relationship with God can be like his relationship with his Heavenly Father. This means that God wants to relate to us in the same manner that Christ relates to his Father. In other words, God doesn’t just want us to be his friends, he wants us to be his children, his very own sons and daughters. God in Christ reveals he wants to be more than just our friends, we wants to invite us to become members of his own family.
The New Testament testifies, and Christians believe that Christ’s revelation of God as the Holy Trinity means that God is love. We do not simply believe that God can do loving things, but that love is what God is essentially is. You can’t have love without a relationship, and God is a relationship of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God could not be love unless he is a relationship and that’s what the Holy Trinity reveals God to be.
It is because of the relationship of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, that Christians testify that God is love. We do not testify that God is love because it is a pleasant idea or a comforting feeling. We testify that God is love because Christ reveals God to be the relationship called the Holy Trinity.
We Christians believe God is love because God is the Holy Trinity.
So what kind of love is God?
This question is answered in what Christ reveals love to be. Christ reveals that love is willing what is the greatest and most important good for another person. That is what love is- willing the good for another.
This is a real challenge to the culturally induced understanding of love that dominates us. Our culturally induced understanding of love stresses affirmation and fulfillment of personal desire or need. Accept me as I am and that is love. Give me what I want and that is love. We might think that this culturally induced conception of love is somehow new or liberating, but what it actually is represents an idol and an illusion. We don’t know what love is because we don’t know who God is.
Christ reveals God and he reveals a very different kind love to us- and he identifies his love as true love, authentic love, radical and revolutionary love. Love is willing the good for another person- not affirming them as they are, or giving them what they want, but willing for someone what is good and giving them what they really and truly need. This love always demands a sacrifice, and it is because of this sacrifice, that the love Christ reveals always has the potential to save and to redeem.
And for us, embedded in this culture, at this particular moment in time, it is this lesson about true love, authentic love, real love, that must be the most important lesson. Have we forgotten how to love because we have forgotten what love is (or maybe we never knew…)? And have we forgotten how to love, because we have forgotten what Christ reveals about God (or dismissed his revelation as unimportant)? How many of our own miseries are a result of this forgetfulness? We don’t know how to love because we don’t know who God is, or worse, we think we know who God is, but what we think God is is not who Christ reveals God to be.
And in the midst of our miseries, let us remember the mercy that is the revelation of true love- God in Christ, the relationship that reveals the one, true God- Father, Son and Holy Spirit- One God, the Holy Trinity.