Summary: How the Trinity shapes our relationships.
Today we come to our last study on the Trinity. Three things we shall be doing (1) looking at the Trinity as a model for understanding ourselves; (2) then the Trinity as the foundation for building godly relationships; (3) the priority of trinitarian love.
‘I’m not a simple person. I have a complexity of feelings, often I do not understand why I am or who I am. My mind runs away from me. There is a depth to me that I do not know and which I cannot share because I do not fully understand. The universe within me is the size of universe around me, and both are uncharted and both are littered with surprises. Yet I persevere with my complexity, because I have no choice and I live for the day when I shall fully understand the real me’.
The essence of a person, Mounier insists, is indefinable. The French philosopher goes onto say that our person is a ‘living activity of self-creation, of communication and attachment, that grasps and knows itself’. The Teacher in the Book of Ecclesiastes says that ‘God has set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end’ (Ecc 3:11). There is a indefinable mystery about our person. And so we ask, ‘who am I’?
The complexity of our personality is a reminder that we are made in the image and likeness of God. Or to put it another way, ‘since God is beyond understanding, his icon within humanity is also incomprehensible’ (Kallistos Ware). We are God’s workmanship, his icon created in his image, and so our nature reflects the complexity and mystery of God himself.
But all is not lost, for we can understand ourselves as theological beings. And this understanding emerges from the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. As one of the early Church Fathers puts it, ‘man realises his true existence in the measure in which he is raised up towards God and is united with him’ (Nellas).
When we look at Jesus, we see an undefiled person. Jesus is the measure of humanity. He is the litmus test for life. Christ is in the image of God, and male and female are in the image of Christ. Man is a creator because he is in the image of the supreme Creator. Man rules the world because he is made in the image of Christ, the Almighty Ruler. Men and women are capable of relationships because we mirror Christ who is a relational person.
When we enter into union with Christ, we are introduced to the relationships that exist within the Trinity. ‘God is love’ (1 Jn 4:8) means that the relationships with the Trinity are other-centred and sacrificial. The persons within the Trinity enjoy an eternal and joyful communion. In fact, the most wonderful description of the Trinity arises from this binding love, from the other-centeredness of the Trinity as described by Broughton Knox:
'The Father loves the Son and gives him everything. The Son always does that which pleases the Father. The Spirit takes the things of the Son and shows them to us.
We learn from the Trinity that relationship is the essence of reality and therefore the essence of our existence.
We also learn that the way this relationship should be expressed is by concern for others. Within the Trinity itself there is a concern by the persons of the Trinity for one another'.
The Trinity defines our personhood. We are people built for relationships. Indeed, relationships are the ‘essence of reality’. Intellectual truth is not ultimate reality. Ultimate reality is not propositional—reality is not the sum of words and logical conjunctions. Ultimate reality is relational—its personal. It’s about knowing the Son and having life in his name. Relationship is the essence of our existence. When God made this world he spun it out of the web of relationships. God in relationship with his creation, man and woman in relationship with one another, Adam and Eve ruling the world. Relationship is the ‘essence of reality’.
The relationships which exist between the Father, Son and Spirit are the model for our own relationships. God exists in his own community. Father, Son and Spirit exist in a relationship which is never marred by disagreements and disharmony. There’s never been a fight in the Trinity. There’s no name calling and running-down and shouting at the other person. There’s no meanness and selfishness. The universe has never stopped working for a day or two because there’s a stoush between the Spirit and the Son.
The key to understanding relationships is go back to the Trinity and what we see is unity and diversity, oneness and other-centeredness. When we go back to the Trinity, we go back to the original design for human relationships. We need to look at our relationships from this great perspective because it is here we learn the nature of reality. And we see that we are created for relationships which glorify God.