Morning Meditation, September 28, 2015
“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge…” Ephesians 3:18-19
This passage of Scripture is not new to me, and perhaps not to you either. It’s one of the “hit” verses of the bible—to know how wide, long, high and deep is the love of Christ. Who doesn’t want to know this kind of love? And yet we often find God’s love for us incredibly difficult to grasp. We just know ourselves too well. We go to bed swatting away critical thoughts, fear consumes us, we’ve given in to our wayward lusts, or maybe it’s the shame of something from our past that seems to be the metal shield off of which God’s love for us will forever ricochet. It’s just so hard to believe sometimes that He really loves us. And even if we believe it in our heads—like we believe our mothers think we’re pretty, because they sort of have to—we don’t know how to coax it into our souls.
Given this common struggle I was intrigued when I noticed a word in this passage I’d never seen before. It’s the word power—as in, the power to grasp the love of Jesus. The Greek word is exischyō and is used only one time in the New Testament. Once. Right here. And it means, “to be eminently able, to have full strength, entirely competent.” In other words Paul is praying that we would have the power, the ability, the strength to grasp God’s overwhelming love because he knew it wouldn’t always come easy.
Paul prayed for the strength to grasp God’s love
Paul prayed that the church at Colossae would be able to grasp God’s love. This tells me that God’s love is so beyond us that we will need His help to receive it on meaningful levels, to truly understand it and believe it in our bones. This inspires me to pray for those who can’t seem to receive the tender love of our Savior, even if they intellectually believe it. It inspires me to pray for myself, that the Lord would give me the capability to more fully grasp how wide, long, high and deep is the love of God. Though God’s love is a gift He lavishes upon us, being able to comprehend that love requires a certain strength, and Paul reveals that he prays for that strength. I believe we should, too.
God’s love is best understood within the community of believers
Notice Paul writes about being rooted in love together with all the saints. Believers in Jesus who isolate themselves from the body of Christ will have difficulty grasping Christ’s love for them, because part of comprehending His love is experiencing it within the community of Christ. I have a friend who’s been going through a hard season with health issues, her husband lost his job, and she and her new baby were recently in a car accident. She told me how our home church has reached out to her in such overwhelming ways that she’s receiving the wider dimensions of God’s love for her in places she’s had difficulty accepting it before. It’s taken the body of Christ to help her experience God’s love for her more fully.
God’s love surpasses our finite knowledge
I see another insight into why I sometimes have a hard time internalizing God’s love for me, really letting it seep into my being. This passage tells us that God’s love surpasses knowledge. And isn’t it typically our knowledge that stands in the way of us believing in God’s love? It’s the knowledge of the hurt in this world, the loss of a loved one who God could have healed, the guilt we can’t believe can be washed away. It’s all this knowledge of our circumstances that sometimes makes His love hard to grasp. Yet at this precise place, the love of Christ surpasses our limited, finite understanding the way a winning runner flies past the competition. Our knowledge, intellect, reasoning, understanding will never, not ever, be able to beat out His love. His love will always surpass what we know.
My friend Kari recently returned from a trip to the Amazon. When I asked her what her most profound moment was she explained how the Amazon is simply the most vast thing she’s ever witnessed. “I’ve never seen a more magnificent river than the Amazon”, she said. “Overlooking the river reminded me that the love of God is wider, longer, higher, and deeper still.”