The Bible begins at, well, the beginning. “In the beginning God…” Before the big bang there was a Big Bang-er. And that explosive, universe-creating Force behind everything is pure Love.
The essence of God is identified only three times in Scripture, each time recorded by the apostle John:
- God is Spirit (John 4:24) – pure energy beyond the created universe of molecules, atoms, and quarks.
- God is Light (1 John 1:5) – pure truth and goodness. “Only God is good,” said Jesus (Mark 10:18).
- God is Love (1 John 4:8, 16) – pure personal, relational, and unconditional honour.
God is love. And love exists within the matrix of relationship. Love exists within and between persons. Love is relational energy. Relationship is the sinew that connects persons in order for love to move between them, for love is only love when it is moving between and within persons. While there may be relationships without love, there will never be love without relationship. In and of himself, God could not be “love” without some form of relational experience and expression being intrinsic and elemental to who God is. If God were a singular monad, he would have to create someone or something else in order to engage in and express love, and even then he could only be described as “loving,” but not “love.” To say that “God is love” is to say that within his very being is the ongoing active exchange of honour. Love is, as it were, the DNA of the Divine.
It is the Christian doctrine of the Trinity that best captures this biblical concept. When people challenge me on the contradictory or just plain silliness of the 1+1+1=1 mathematics of the Trinity, I like to remind them of a better math: 1x1x1=1. What I’m getting at is that to say “God is love” is to say that somehow God (who is one) is Persons-In-Relationship.
Don’t ever be embarrassed of the doctrine of the Trinity. This seemingly nonsensical, contradictory belief is really the only thing that makes sense of a God who is “love.” And this love is the origin of everything.
It is the nature of love to share, to expand, to create and sustain life. So the Bible begins with the story of God’s choice to create. In creating, God expanded his own internal experience of love. We are the result and the expression of God’s love life.
So when God decided to expand and extend his love through relationships by creating us, the Bible records that God spoke to himself in the plural: “Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness’” (Genesis 1:26). God is love, and therefore God is persons-in-relationship.
There are three ways the Bible depicts God—three “persons” God is identified with: God is Jesus, our Lord, who is also called the Son of God. God is the Father, who Jesus talks about and talks to. And God is the Holy Spirit, who Jesus sends to live with us and within us.
These three persons, manifestations, expressions, aspects of God (we are pushing the boundaries of language here), are never treated like three gods, nor are they just three roles the one God plays. They are three distinct personalities within the oneness of God. What at first may sound like simple contradiction or theological gobbledygook is actually pointing toward the most profound reality we will ever wrap our minds and hearts around. It means that God is inherently relational. He is community in unity. He is plurality in oneness. What we call “the Trinity” is what makes it possible to claim “God is love.”
This eternal and abundant Love that we call “God” chose to invite more persons into divine relationship:
Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish in the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”
So God created humankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” (Genesis 1:26-28)
All people, male and female, were made by God, in the image of God, to be like God, in relationship with God and one another. As persons in loving relationship, we are to extend this reality throughout the world. Through us, God amplifies divine love into all creation. This is our origin, our purpose, and the context for everything that follows. This is who we are and why we’re here.
Notice that after God speaks to himself in the plural (“Let us make humankind in our image”), the text reverts back to referring to God in the singular (“So God created humankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them”). This is bad grammar but mind-blowing theology. That’s the Trinity: God is the “us” who is also the “he.” This is the God (singular) who is Love (persons-in-relationship). We were created by Relationship for relationship. This is the essence of all ethics: we are made to offer others the love we receive from God.
We live in a universe permeated by and held together with ever-relating Love (Colossians 1:15-17). Relationship is happening all around you, and you are invited into that dimension of daily awareness and experience. Jesus prayed that the love that passes between the Persons of the Trinity, between the Father and Son, would also be within us (see John 17:24-26).
Listen closely. Through Jesus, we can hear God saying, “Welcome.”