In the whole New Testament there are only three statements that try to say in just one word what sort of peculiar being God is. One says, “God is spirit” (John 4:24). Another says, “God is light” (1 John 1:5). And finally there’s this one: “God is love” (1 John 4:16).

What’s intriguing about these three statements is that none of them says that God is an invisible somebody with amazing abilities. That’s how we tend to think of God when we pray—if we pray—and of course it’s how these early writers tended to think when they prayed too. They wouldn’t have prayed to a something. It had to be some very peculiar sort of somebody. But even back then they were beginning to realize that God was much harder to pin down than Harry Potter in an invisibility cloak.

And when they started to say, “God is love,” and connected that to the self-giving life of Jesus, they and their readers wound up eventually saying that God is not just one sort of somebody, not just one sort of person, but this uniquely interpersonal relationship: love—love that endures the worst and keeps coming back inexplicably. They called that idea “Trinity,” which is a doctrine that baffles a lot of people. But all it does is point us to what it might mean if we really believe God is love.

They were saying that nobody is anybody without loving another—and that goes even for God. Love is not just something somebody does. Love is what makes somebody somebody, what makes even God a relationship of somebodys.