Mar 29 -The Love of Christ; A Meditation and Challenge

March 29, 2015

The Love of Christ; A Meditation and Challenge

Ephesians 3:14-21

The Love of Christ – a Meditation and Challenge
Ephesians 3:14-21
March 29, 2015

In his letter to the Christians in Ephesus, the apostle Paul tells them that he is praying for certain things to be true in their lives.  In Chapter 1, he mentions that he is praying that his readers will receive a spirit of wisdom and understanding to see their eternal inheritance and the great power that is at work within them (1:17-19).  In our passage, in Ephesians 3, he prays for something similar for them.

14 I kneel before the Father, 15 after whom every lineage* in heaven and earth is named.  16 I pray that out of the riches of his glory he will strengthen and empower you in your inner being through his Spirit.  

*Patria = lit. fatherhood.  Probably Paul wanted to point out that there is no being that exists in the spiritual or physical realm that does not own their existence to God.  

Paul pints out that the believers at Ephesus are people of God’s presence and power.  He continues on in the letter:

17 May Christ dwell in your hearts through faith.  Rooted in love and based on it 18 may you be able with all the saints* to grasp the length, breadth, height, and depth 19 of Christ’s love, and to know this love which is beyond understanding.*  In this way you will be filled with the whole fullness of God.  

* Saints are not super Christians from the past that have received official sainthood (been canonized) by the church.  Saints are not marble or wood or stone statues gracing the inside or outside of RC churches and cathedrals.  

Saints is only Paul’s regular description of all believers, for every follower of Jesus.  Every believer is set apart for God, the real meaning of what it means to be a saint.  A person is not made into a saint because he acts good or kind.  A person acts good and kind because he is a saint.

Paul is not saying, “My hope for you is that you will come to the same deep understanding of Christ’s love as the really great believer of the past, and thereby attain to some higher status and rank.”

* The prayer that Paul’s readers would know the unknowable can sound like a contradiction.  If something is unknowable or beyond comprehension, how can one pray that others would grasp it, understand it?  

But that is not exactly what Paul was getting at.  I think that he wanted his readers to understand just how far God’s love is above the kind of love that we as humans usually display for one another – ours is a limited love in many ways.  The love of Christ goes beyond our limitations, and therefore beyond human reason.

Further, Paul may be pointing out, that to hear about Christ’s love is one thing.  To believe in Christ’s love is something different and better.  But to grasp the love of Christ to the point where it can be felt, experienced and enjoyed is something altogether different and infinitely better.

Paul continues on and as he does he returns to the power at work within us.

20 Now, may he, who is able to do immensely more than what we could ask for or imagine because of the power at work in us, 21 be glorified forever and ever through the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations.  Amen. 

This week we had the terrible tragedy of a co-pilot purposefully murdering 150 people, men, women and children, because he wanted to die himself.  

It is one thing to commit suicide, but this was murder on a grand scale committed against innocent people.  

The complete opposite is true when Jesus died.  His death was all about his own willingness to be killed so that he could bring life to others.  The apostle Paul writes about how this is even different from how humans sometime sacrifice themselves.

At the right time Christ died for the ungodly.  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.    Romans 5:6-8

The kind of love that would sacrifice itself for complete strangers or even enemies is inspirational and moving.

This weekend I watched the movie, “Guardians of the Galaxy.”  At a very tense part of the movie, a huge spaceship was about to crash onto the planet, killing everyone on board.  One character, a tree like creature called Groot, decided to encase some of the other characters with himself, ensuring their survival but his own death.

The fact that those he saved had all kinds of character flaws just made that scene more poignant.

We teach children to sing, “Jesus loves me this I know…”

Other songs that come to mind:

Oh how he loves you and me.  
His banner over me is love.  
Love lifted me.  
I could sing of your love forever.  
How he loves.
O the deep, deep, love of Jesus

“O the deep, deep love of Jesus, 
vast, unmeasured, boundless, free!  
Rolling as a mighty ocean 
in its fullness over me.
Underneath me, all around me, 
is the current of Thy love;
Leading onward, leading homeward, 
to my glorious rest above.”

Samuel Trevor Francis thought  of the love of Christ, the love of Jesus, like a vast ocean enveloping him above and below and all around, its currents guiding him to his eternal home.

Jesus’ love is so extensive that it reaches to all people everywhere.  It reaches beyond physical, political, national, ethnical or denominational boundaries.   All over the world, in churches, in homes, in hospitals and prisons, in places of business and places of recreation; no matter where there are people, all of them are encompassed by the unbelievable extent of Jesus’ love.

Most of the Jews in the first century and beyond, never caught on to this reality. They thought God’s love was only for them.  Ultimately, God cared only for them. 

They struggled when Jesus spoke with a woman from Samaria, or when he healed the slave of a Roman official and quipped that this Roman had more faith than Jesus’ fellow Jews.  But we can be sometimes a lot like that.  We can dismiss people as the objects of God’s love based on appearances.  Or maybe we think that our denomination has the corner on the truth.  Or maybe we think that God really is not concerned about a certain people group.

Those who worship God come from every tribe and tongue and people and nation (Rev 5:9).  Christ’s love is not only colourblind, but also extends to other groups that years ago were considered aberrations, of little value, or even as less than human.  

In the 1950’s and 1960’s children with downs syndrome were not considered to be human.  Those with dwarfism were ridiculed.  Those who were deaf were called dumb.   Those with intellectual disabilities or mental issues were hidden away in institutions.  And the list goes on.  

If you are a parent and an angel appeared to you one night and offered to replace your children with brighter, more diligent, smarter, kinder, better looking, more polite, children … would you?  Or would you be like me, I would cling to the children that I consider a gift from God and love deeply and tell that angel to go away.  

We can give up the perfect children we desire to have, but we will agonize over the loss of the fallible children we love.  And God agonizes over the loss of even one soul.

Also, Christ’s love cannot be limited by topography.  Wherever humans may go, to the highest mountain peaks, into the depths of the ocean, to the darkest caves, the furthest shores, the most isolated of all places, or even to space itself.  There is no getting away from Christ’s love.

The reality is that Jesus died for the world (John 3:16) and everyone in it, even if not all people will embrace his sacrifice on their behalf. 

Real love, indescribable love, loves even the unlovely and seeks to call them into relationship.  So we were called back to God not because we are such great individuals, but because he loves us (cf. 2 Tim 1:9).  Great love won’t stop because it is patient and kind, it extends forgives and hope.

Christ’s love cannot be limited by time.  It extends from eternity past to eternity future.  It does not wane or falter over time.  The resurrected Jesus said to his followers, “I will be with you always, to the end of time” (Matt 28:20).  Christ’s love is always is extended toward us, although we have a choice in how we respond to it.

Christ’s love extends from heaven toward earth, from above to below.  Love comes down but raises up, lifts up.  

As the apostle Paul tells us in Philippians 2, Jesus was equal with God, one with God, yet he was willing to exist in the body of a man for 30 years.  Dirty feet, hurting back, sweat and sore muscles, suffering and death.  

What we ultimately have received in standing and in rewards because of that love is difficult to describe, although people, including biblical writers have tried.  

Isaiah speaks of paradise regained.  Paul described “all those things that God has prepared for those who love him” as something never before seen or hear or imagined (1 Cor 2:9).  

Whatever heaven will be like it will take our breath away … mostly, I believe, because we will literally be fully aware of God’s presence and love at all times.  

If we grasp the vastness of Christ’s love, we will be filled with the fullness of God and then God can do things in our lives that we cannot even imagine.  If we truly know the love of Christ, the Spirit can take this and bring about some real positive changes.  And it is because Christ’s love isn’t sentimental or anemic, it is because it is strong and caring and infectious.

There are two other passages that speak of the love of Christ.  The first is found in Romans 8.

Who can separate us from the love of Christ?  … For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.                Romans 8:35,38-39

Absolutely nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.  No amount or kind of distress, persecution, or opposition from without can possibly separate us from enjoying the blessing and assurance of knowing Christ’s love towards us. 

In times of trouble we may have temporary doubts concerning God’s love to us, or our ability to cope with the pressures we face; but if we grasp the love of Christ, then we can face the world, can face good health and illness, youth and old age, life and death, fun and sorrow, with a sense of peace and joy that indeed extends beyond understanding. 

The third passage that speaks of Christ’s love is found in 2 Cor 5.

The love of Christ compels us since we conclude that if one died for all then all have “died.”  And indeed, the one did die for all, so that the living will no longer live for themselves, but for him who died for their sake and was raised from the dead.        2 Corinthians 5:14-15

If we truly grasp the love of Christ, it will compel us to live for Him – to do what he has shown us with his teaching, his actions, and his commandment – and that is to share His love with others.   

I think that Christian camps are so effective not only because they are fun, or that it can be a place where friendships can bloom, but mostly because the role models who are found there truly love the campers because they are filled with Christ’s love.

The love of Christ compels them.  But then, it should compel us as well, shouldn’t it?