“My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it.” Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel
“We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19 (NIV)
Most of us know at some level that God loves us. It can be easy to just simply gloss over a passage like 1 John 4:19 and move on. But there is much about God’s love for us that goes beyond our comprehension. In one of Paul’s prayers for the Ephesians recorded in Ephesians 3:17-19 we see this illustrated:
Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Ephesians 3:17-19
To be rooted in love pictures a sturdy, growing tree that sinks down roots that enable it to withstand drought and fierce storms. To be grounded in love pictures a solid building, with a foundation that goes down to the bedrock. It can withstand a flood or an earthquake, because it is built on the rock. This pictures a love for God and for others that is not based on fluctuating feelings or circumstances. Rather, it is solid and steady, providing a firm basis for everything else in life.
“And may you have the power to understand,” or, “to have the strength to grasp” this immense love of Christ shows that it is not easy or even fully understandable by ourselves. We must have God’s power. This is not a one-time achievement, but a lifetime and ongoing journey. We can never say, “I’ve arrived!” And, we will not grow towards this goal if we are not experiencing God’s power through His Spirit at work within us.
Paul’s prayer in Ephesians is not a prayer that we might love Christ more, although we should. Rather, Paul is praying that we might better grasp Jesus’ immense love for us. While there is an intellectual side to this, it is not merely intellectual. Paul is praying that though we already know Jesus’ great love, we might come to experience it at ever-deepening levels. One writer describes it this way:
God’s love is total. It reaches every corner of our experience. It is wide-it covers the width of our own experience, and it reaches out to the whole world. God’s love is long-it continues the length of our lives. It is high-it rises to the heights of our celebration and elation. His love is deep-it reaches the depths of discouragement, despair, and even death. When you feel shut out or isolated, remember that you can never be lost to God’s love. (Life Application Study Bible)
Steven Cole describes it this way:
The measurements that Paul gives emphasize the immensity of Christ’s love. You can go left or right, forward or backward, or up or down as far as you can, and you still haven’t explored all that there is to know of Christ’s great love. The width of Christ’s love encompasses a great multitude that is beyond number, consisting of people from every nation and tribe and people and tongue (Rev. 7:9). It also takes in every concern of every child of God in every age. No care of ours is beyond the width of His love. The length of Christ’s love extends from eternity to eternity. It is an eternal love that will not let us go! The height of His love lifts us up to our exalted position of being seated with Him in the heavenly places (Eph. 2:6). His eternal purpose for us is that we will be holy and blameless, lifted far above the temptations here below that so easily beset us. The depth of His love caused Him to leave the glory of heaven and His exalted position there and come to this earth to be born as a baby. It moved Him to go to the extreme suffering of the cross, where He who knew no sin was made sin for us (2 Cor. 5:21). It reached all the way down to where we were in our sin. Although we were rebels and enemies of God, the love of Christ redeemed us from the slave market of sin and made us heirs with Him. Steven Cole Knowing the Unknowable Love of Christ.
In Romans 8:38-39 Paul describes God’s love for us as inseparable:
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39
It is from receiving this incomprehensible and inseparable love of God that our love for Him and others flows.
DAILY RESPONSE: (Use a notebook to journal your responses, thoughts and prayer as you engage with today’s reading):
- When was the last time you stopped to consider how much God loves you?
- Are you growing more and more to know this unknowable love of Christ?”
- Do you know His love experientially more today than you did a year ago?
- What thoughts and emotions does today’s reading stir up within you?
- Using Ephesians 3:17-19 as a start write a prayer to God expressing your desire to move beyond having an informational knowledge about His love to an experiential knowledge of His love.