[I pray that you] know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Rooted and Established
Paul ends his letter to the Ephesians with a magnificent benediction. He prays God will strengthen their inner beings, “so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” (Ephesians 3.17) Second, he asks God to enable them—as people “rooted and established in love”—to recognize “how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.” (v17-18) He wants them to understand as fully as possible that their faith and relationship with Christ are grounded in a love like no other. It knows no bounds, rises to unreachable heights, and is impenetrably deep. It reaches everyone, everywhere, on every level.
Christ’s love is a force unto itself. If we think of it on a human scale, we severely diminish our awareness of what it means to be rooted and established in such a love. Human love focuses attention on the object of affection and, depending on whom that is, determines how and how much of it should be parceled out. Suppose we do master the skill of loving everyone as Jesus taught, human comprehension of love will still encourage us to love some more than others. Our love for some will be strong enough to support genuine forgiveness. By caring so deeply for them, we can accept their flaws and failures. In other cases, though, forgiveness is more like dispensation—a pardon granted in conscious obedience to Christ’s commandments rather than a personal expression of love. Either way, we do our best and because human love has its limits, it’s the best we can do. Not so with Christ’s love. Its vastness covers all time and space, meeting each of us where we are and encompassing all of our shortcomings in its embrace. Being rooted and established in this great love permits it to flow into us and through us, making it possible for us to exceed the boundaries of human love and express Christ’s love—unconditionally, uniformly, and unsparingly.
Filled to the Measure
Paul says we can know this love, even though its scope and nature are beyond knowledge. In other words, having experienced Christ’s love for ourselves, we know its power despite not completely knowing how it works. It’s a phenomenon that defies logical explanation. Yet its behavior and impact are readily observed. We’ve witnessed the amazing effects of Christ’s love in our own lives: the startling realization that we are loved, the peaceful assurance we are forgiven, and the untrammeled confidence we are accepted. We don’t know why Christ loves us, given our miserable circumstances and tendencies. But He’s proven His love to us repeatedly by His grace and mercy. According to Paul, knowing Christ’s love is sufficient for us to be “filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Understanding it isn’t required.
Love Changes Everything
Knowing this love changes everything. First, it changes us by altering how we see ourselves. Christ’s immodestly enormous love for us and our unworthiness of it offset anyone else’s assessment that we’re unlovable or unworthy. No one we’ll ever meet in life will love us like Jesus does. Love from others is to be treasured and protected. But it’s nothing in comparison to Christ’s love. At the other end of the spectrum, love others withdraw or withhold from us is troubling and regrettable. But its loss is miniscule on balance with the love we’ve been given.
Second, knowing Christ’s love changes how we love. When we bump into the boundaries of human love, we tap into the fullness of God in us—we access His special, bottomless reserve. We cease trying to stretch our love past its limited supply so His love flows freely through us. We get out of the way and let Him be. The crucifixion provides a prime instance of this. Suspended in unbearable physical and emotional agony, Jesus looks on the mob of turncoat followers and has no human capacity for love. He shows His love for them by turning to God. “Father, forgive them,” He says. He sets His personal feelings aside to rely solely on God’s mercy and grace. We know Christ’s love. We possess His ability to love. When our love fails, we don’t expend unneeded energy to justify why that is. We step aside so Christ’s love flows. We don’t understand it. We just know it.
Christ's love is a force unto itself, a phenomenon not like any kind of human love. When our love fails, we tap into His love's power.
(Tomorrow: Integrity and Seduction)