God is love. God is Trinity. The first of these two statements is one most of us are quite comfortable with. In fact, many people who would never count themselves as Christians have no problem saying ,“God is love”. The second statement, God is Trinity, doesn’t fare as well, especially with those who aren’t Christians, and even with Christians themselves. One God in Three Persons. It seems needlessly perplexing, a paradox that we would simply rather spend little time thinking about. Yes, we might say it as part of the creed every Sunday—I believe in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—but it’s hard to think that it matters that much. What difference does it make, really?
It turns out that it makes all the difference in the world. It is actually impossible to say God is love without also affirming that God is Trinity. We cannot have one without the the other. That God is love is a result of him being Triune because love requires relationship. Notice that what we affirm in saying “God is love” is not simply that God is loving, or does loving things, but that he is in and of himself Love. This is a key distinction. For love to exist, there must be the one who loves, the one who is loved, and the love that is created between them. Or to put it another way, there is the Father who loves the Son and the bond of love between them is the Holy Spirit.
Now I know I haven’t solved the deep mysteries of the Trinity in two puny paragraphs. Nor do I pretend to know exactly how it all works, but there is something deeply profound here, and I want to encourage you that the Trinity deserves our deepest contemplation. I also want to affirm that when our hearts warm at hearing that God is love, we are instinctually connecting with the reality of the Trinity and affirming the nature of reality itself. C.S. Lewis says something to this effect in The Problem of Pain: “In self-giving, if anywhere, we touch a rhythm not only of all creation but of all being…[it is] self giving which is absolute reality." Self-giving describes the very nature of God’s love. God so loved that he gave. And Lewis affirms that self-giving tells us something about the nature of the world we live in and about the nature of Being, of God and existence, itself.