Love Never Fails: Trinity Sunday and Beyond

Love Never Fails: Trinity Sunday and Beyond June 4, 2023

Here’s Andrei Rublev’s icon painted c. 1400. It pictures Abraham’s guests, the three angelic visitors (recorded in Genesis 18). This painting envisions the angels as symbolizing the three members of the Trinity. The icon hangs in our dining room, in my office, and in my theological imagination. Date of photo, 21 May 2005, by Eloquence {{PD-US-expired}}.

Today is Trinity Sunday. This post reflects upon the import of the Trinity as divine love for our various relationships, including those who fail to match our expectations or aspirations for themselves. The Trinity’s love never fails.

I wonder how often people think of Trinity Sunday and reflect immediately on the import of God as Trinity for true love. All too often, well-meaning individuals use images from nature or math to try and make clear what the Trinity is. “The Trinity is like an eggshell, egg white, and egg yolk. Together they make up an egg.” Or “The Trinity is like 1 x 1 x 1, which equals 1.” But the Trinity is not like some ingredient in a recipe or a mathematical equation. The Trinity is three divine persons in eternal, loving, holy communion. While the Trinity is not to be ‘used’ to explain or support social systems and human relationships, this understanding of God does have a bearing on relationships, including my relationship with my son Christopher who has TBI.

Nicholas of Cusa and Jonathan Edwards reflected at length on the Trinity and its bearing on our understanding of divine love. The following reflection seeks to account for their musings in abbreviated form. The Bible declares that God is love (See 1st John 4:8, for example). Now if God existed eternally as an individual in isolation, then God would need to create someone or something to be loving, since love always requires an object. After all, no one can be loving if they don’t have anyone to love. And if God needs the world in any way to be loving, then God’s love isn’t unconditional (agape). But because there is otherness in the divine life, as the Father loves the Son and the Son responds to that love in the eternal Spirit, then the creation of the world is simply and ultimately an overflow of that eternal love within the godhead. God does not love us to gain something from us, but to commune with us freely. While that might appear to many to be mental gymnastics, it helps me keep my relational equilibrium on the balance beam of life.

It has been two and a half years since my son Christopher endured a catastrophic brain injury. As those who are parents can relate, I had such high hopes for my son, often in view of his own dreams and aspirations. And yet, after 2.5 years, I must face the very real likelihood that life as Christopher knew it will never materialize again, or that what he aspired to be will likely never be fulfilled this side of the veil. That is not to say we have lost hope of meaningful recovery in this life, which will be the subject of another post (in fact, our palliative care specialist and a neurologist with whom we consult holds out such hope given what we have witnessed to date and based on other factors). What meaningful recovery looks like differs for every person facing similar circumstances. But the point of this post is that no matter how far Christopher proceeds toward the possibility of meaningful recovery, he is still my son whom I cherish no matter what his capacities are. Love never fails.

Sometimes I come across arguments against abortion that make it seem that parents should not abort a fetus because they could become a heart surgeon or a football star someday. And what if one knew their child would someday endure TBI as catastrophic as my son’s? Regardless of our various stances on abortion, my hope would be that we would not love a child based on what they might become or not become, but who they are—humans with inherent dignity and worth and eternally loved by God no matter what they make of their lives.

God as Trinity does not love you and me based on what we might become, but simply because God loves us. As Martin Luther wrote in his Heidelberg Disputation of God’s love of sinners like me, God’s love creates the attraction. Our attractiveness does not create God’s love. That is the gospel of Jesus Christ pure, plain, and simple.

The more I realize God loves me pure, plain, and simple, not ultimately for what I can become, but because God created me, I am free to really love others freely. Love never fails. No matter the failure of Christopher’s neurological activity, no matter the emergence of neuroplasticity and some measure of meaningful recovery, love never fails. My celebration of Trinity Sunday carries me forward in pursuit of relational equilibrium on the balance beam of life.

To read the various posts on this incredible and mysterious journey with TBI, please click on this link. Thank you for your prayers! In turn, I pray this incredible and mysterious Trinitarian prayer of the Apostle Paul for you today! “For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:14-19; NIV)

About Paul Louis Metzger
Paul Louis Metzger is Professor of Theology & Culture, Multnomah University and Seminary; the Director of The Institute for Cultural Engagement: New Wine, New Wineskins; and Author and Editor of numerous works, including the forthcoming More Than Things: A Personalist Ethics for a Throwaway Culture (IVP Academic, 2023) and Trinitarian Soundings in Systematic Theology (T&T Clark International, 2005). You can read more about the author here.

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