The Trinity and Human Flourishing: A New Ode to Joy
By Charlie Self
Followers of Jesus worship a God who is at once the Almighty and Abba, infinite and personal, uniquely One and a relation of Three, utterly perfect and unchanging in character and nature, full of pathos and personally engaged in every detail of life.
Our God is the Source of all that is good about being human: from our creativity and relationships to the diversity of our genders and personalities. “God so loved the world…” includes God becoming one of us forever in Jesus of Nazareth. In our Lord, we see the divine life of a human being and the human life of God.
In our many (hopefully open and permeable) circles of discipleship and mission, human flourishing is emerging as a way of describing the Spirit-transformed life of followers that choose the way of the Cross and discover the concomitant power of the resurrection in their daily journey. It is God’s intention that the future becomes (partially but substantively) present in our personal and community life.
God is a Divine Dance of delight, mutual donation and effervescent joy. In both his absolute being and his self-disclosing service toward humankind, we see the sources of our flourishing.
Here are some connections between our theology of the Trinity and human flourishing made possible through the death and resurrection of our Lord:
God is Love: Human flourishing begins and ends with receiving and releasing agape love. The Triune Lord is a forever exchange of mutual affection, self-giving, and honor. In John 17:24-26, Jesus prays that his disciples might experience the love he and the Father have enjoyed from before the creation of the world. This love includes the deepest wellsprings of affection and even emotion, but its true expression is doing what is best for one another. As we disciple others, we call upon inquirers and followers to receive God’s love and then share it with others. Just as the Father honors the Son and the Son humbly glorifies the Father and the Spirit unveils this beautiful mutuality, so healthy people are able to receive and release love. There is often much healing and forgiveness needed along the way as sinners learning–to-live-like-saints overcome a lifetime of negativity, rejection and (yes) selfishness. We are liberated to love!
God is Holy: Human flourishing includes integration of head, hearts, and hands in alignment with truth as God’s people are separated for service to the Lord and fully engaged in enhancing the life of the world. Holiness is a response to grace, a covenant of loyal-love (Hebrew: Hesed) that is a thank you for the mercy of God’s liberating grace. The Old and New Testament order of salvation is unique among global faiths. Notice God’s activity and the process of self-disclosure as ancient Israel is blessed (in order to bless the nations: Gen. 12:1-3) and the Church is born and unleashed (for the life of the world):
- Election: Having a people who freely love and enjoy God and each other is the eternal purpose of creation and the goal of Christ’s redemption (Eph. 1-3).
- Liberation (Salvation): The Song of the Sea (Exodus 15) celebrates the deliverance of Israel from their Egyptian oppressors and the Song of the Lamb (Rev. 4-5) affirms that Christ’s blood secures people from all nations. God’s grace is preeminent and no human efforts are elevated.
- Covenant: The nation of Israel and the expanded new Israel are set apart to glorify God (Ex. 19:6; 2 Pt. 2:9-10)
- And then, the Law and the Imperatives that flow from grace (Ex. 20: Eph.4:1ff). God’s commands are for our flourishing (Deut. 10:12-15; Eph. 4:17).
God is One: The unity of Trinity is not isolation and abstract singularity. “Hear, O Israel, the Lord is God; the Lord is One” is a confession of the transcendent uniqueness of the Lord and a call to fidelity for his followers. In John 17, Jesus prayed four times for unity among his disciples, including the phrase, “complete unity.” Human flourishing includes belonging, common purpose, and shared values and vision. Our God is One is being and mission, in his infinite distinction from creation and intimate involvement through his historic self-disclosure.
Wait…There is More!
Human flourishing includes love, holiness, and unity. Put another way, we need intimacy with God and integrity with each other. Healthy relationships, liberation from enslavement to our old identity and nature, and participation in community and mission are all part of our wholeness.
Practically, the Trinity speaks to our everyday application of these broad insights as we imitate Christ. Here are thoughts connecting Sunday with the rest of the week:
- God is the first worker, fashioning the original creation (Gen. 1-2), forming each human life in the womb (Ps. 139) and working at every moment to redeem the world (john 5, 8, 10). Human flourishing includes understanding the dignity and meaning of our daily work, from labor to leadership, paid or volunteer, creative or repetitive. We are called to “do justice” and work for good conditions and systemic transformation where possible. Work is all meaningful and moral activity apart from leisure and rest. It is not merely instrumental. Our daily grind can be infused with mission if we are attentive to the Spirit.
- God rested and so must we. Sabbath is more than a day off. It is built into our created rhythms and is a sign that we trust God to provide through six days of work what we need for seven. Sabbath is a celebration of our Creator and Savior (Ex. 20; Deut. 5; Heb. 3-4). We are made to work, but work is not our only purposeful activity.
- God celebrates extravagantly and we are invited to join in. The Lord that dances and sings over his people (Zeph. 3:17) invites us to dance and sing, play our instruments, enjoy good food and share our bounty with others (Ps. 126; Neh. 8:10; Eph. 5:18-21). We need more celebrations in the midst of all the challenges. We need more feasting as well as fasting.
- God offers himself for human wholeness and we are invited to do the same. The Father so loved he gave his Son; The Son voluntarily offered himself as an atoning sacrifice and the Spirit works in all hearts, convicting and convincing the world of this love (John 3, 5, 11-12, 14-16). We are compelled by Christ’s love to present the message of reconciliation to the whole world. We are servants with a self-authenticating Word, ambassadors of amnesty and co-laborers with God (2 Co. 5:14-6:2). We are at our happiest when we selflessly serve in deed and word.
- God cares about all dimensions of life: Christ ends forever the sacred-secular divide. Whether labeled common grace, natural law, sphere sovereignty, or any other way, all positive dimensions of human activity are gifts of God that we are called to steward well. Rom. 12:1-2 brings all aspects of daily life into the realm of worship. Artistic and cultural expressions, technological innovation, business, public service, education, spiritual leaders, creation care…all matter to God and every vocation is a gift to the world.
God is our Source for flourishing and it is the calling of spiritual leaders to connect belief and behavior, doctrine and discipline, God’s Life with our daily life.
Let’s help one another flourish in all our situations and vocations.
Originally published at Mission Alliance