The Power of Giving and Receiving

Trinity: Part 1

The Power of Giving and Receiving
Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Christians will continually misinterpret and misuse Jesus if we don’t understand the circle dance of mutuality and communion that he participated in from all eternity (which we call “Christ”). Instead, we made Jesus into a monarchical “Christ the King,” a title he rejected in his lifetime (John 18:37), and we operate as if God’s interest in creation or humanity only began 2,000 years ago. Both Western and Eastern Christianity made the one who described himself as “meek and humble of heart” (Matthew 11:29) into an imperial God. The Greek Zeus became the Latin Deus.

What if we actually surrendered to the inner Trinitarian flow and let it be our primary teacher? Our notion of society, politics, and authority—which is still top down and outside in—would utterly change. But circles are much more threatening than pyramids are, at least to empires, the wealthy, and the patriarchal system. Yet “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit” (2 Corinthians 13:13) was supposed to be our circular and all-inclusive ecology. This relational reality existed from the very beginning as revealed in the very first lines of the Bible. There we already have God (Creator), Christ (God made manifest as “light”), and Holy Spirit “hovering over the chaos” (see Genesis 1:1-3) to awaken it—which is still happening.

Trinitarian theology says that spiritual power is more circular or spiral, not so much hierarchical. It’s here; it’s within us. It’s shared and shareable; it’s already entirely for us and grounded within us. What hope this gives! “And hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Romans 5:5). God’s Spirit is planted within us and operating as us! Don’t keep looking to the top of the pyramid. Stop idolizing the so-called “1 percent.” There’s nothing worthwhile up there that is not also down here. Worst of all, it has given 99 percent of the world an unnecessary and tragic inferiority complex.

Trinity shows that God’s power is not any kind of domination, threat, or coercion. If the Father does not dominate the Son, and the Son does not dominate the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit does not dominate the Father or the Son, then there’s no domination in God. All divine power is shared power and the letting go of autonomous power. This God is not seeking control, as we do, but handing on the power to the Other.

There’s no seeking of power over in the Trinity, but only power with—a giving away, a sharing, a letting go, and thus an infinity of trust and mutuality. This should have changed all Christian relationships: in marriage, in culture, in church, and across borders. The prophet Isaiah tried to teach such servanthood to Israel in the classic four “servant songs.” [1] He was trying to train them in being “light to all nations” (Isaiah 42:6; 49:6), but Hebrew history predicted what Christianity then repeated: human nature prefers kings, domination, wars, and empires instead of suffering servanthood or leveling love.

We all already have all the power (dynamis) we need both within us and between us—in fact, Jesus assures us that we are already “clothed” in it “from on high” (see Luke 24:49)! The Holy Spirit redefines power from the inside out and from the bottom up—just the opposite of most human cultures. This is why the Gospel is so seldom understood or lived.

[1] See Isaiah 42:1-9; 49:1-13; 50:4-9; 52:13-53:12.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Shape of God: Deepening the Mystery of the Trinity, disc 5 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2004), CD, DVD, MP3 download; and

Richard Rohr with Mike Morrell, The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation (Whitaker House: 2016), 95-96.

Image credit: Rublev Troitsa (detail), Andrei Rublev, c. 1400–1410, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: If we take the depiction of God in The Trinity seriously, we have to say, “In the beginning was the Relationship.” The gaze between the Three shows the deep respect between them. —Richard Rohr