Love. Back in the sixties Burt Bacharach sang: What the world need now is love sweet love … The Beatles were singing All You Need is Love. The problem was then and still remains today that it’s one thing to sing about love, but quite another to live it.
In his prayer in Ephesians 3:14-21, Paul prays that God’s people be rooted and grounded in Christ’s love and so have the power to grasp the love of Christ, how high and deep is the love of Christ and to know the love of Christ… (Ephesians 3:18f).
In speaking of our experience of Christ’s love Paul mixes two metaphors: one from agriculture— rooted, and the other from construction— grounded. On the one hand, our experience of Christ’s love makes us like well-rooted trees, able to withstand droughts. On the other, like well-built houses, we are enabled by Christ’s love to withstand the hurricanes of life.
We can have an intellectual understanding of God’s love, but Paul prays not only that we know but also that we experience Christ’s love deep in our hearts.
In 1 John 4:10 we read: In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. When John says ‘God is love’, he is not referring to some quasi-erotic ecstasy, but to Jesus dying on the cross.
In speaking of ‘love’ John chooses a rarely used word in the original language, a word that speaks of a love that is committed to making sacrifices, no matter the cost, for the good of others.
Paul uses the same word here as he prays that God’s people may feel in their hearts the deep love of the Son of God for us. God’s Son was willing, not just ‘to share in our human suffering on the cross’, as Greg Sheridan says (God is Good for You, Allen&Unwin: 2018, p.84), but rather to die in our place the death that we deserve. Drawing from the depth of his love for us, the most godly man who has ever lived chose to die for us in our god-forsakeness.
Sometimes it takes a sickness, a crisis, or a tragedy to awaken us to the reality of Christ’s love. Sometimes it’s not until we see houses, cars and the luxuries of the world for what they are – trinkets whose splendor is uncertain and fading – that we experience the heart of God’s love.
The power of God’s love. Paul knows that it is only when God’s power is at work in our lives that we really see what it meant for him to get into our skin and enter our world; what it cost for him to suffer and die in our place. And it is for this that he prays.
Early in the 19th century, Napoleon’s army opened prisons used in the Spanish Inquisition. They came across the remains of a prisoner in a dungeon deep underground. Bones hung limply from chains around the wrists and ankles. The prisoner had suffered a grim death, but he had left a witness. On the wall he had sketched a cross and written words at each corner. Written in Spanish they read at the top of the cross, ‘height’, at the bottom ‘depth’, on one side ‘length’, on the other side ‘breadth’. Even in his suffering this man had felt the impact of God’s love.
I want you to experience, Paul says, the power of the love of God, to feel in your hearts the reality of that love.
Significantly, he adds a caveat: That with all the saints you may have the power to grasp… God’s love.
Change. A personal experience of Christ’s love doesn’t tend come to lone ranger Christians. Rather, when we consider the kinds of people God saves by his grace, whose lives are transformed by Christ – the egocentric materialists and party-loving hedonists, the powerless and the impoverished, you and me – do we fall to our knees in humility, thankfulness and joy.
Sometimes we wonder how God can love some of these people because we ourselves find it hard to love them. And then it hits us that wonder of all wonders, God loves me.
Can this power change us? Can this power change our relationships with people around us? Can this power help us cope with the disappointments and frustrations of life?
Paul’s answer is very much ‘Yes’. God’s power can change us, direct us, enable us to say sorry, to say, ‘I forgive.’ This power of God, like the dynamite it is, can and does change this fallen, fragile life of ours.
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GettyMusic ‘Sing’ Conference – September 10-12. Location: Nashville, TN (Music City Center – 201 5th Ave S, Nashville, TN 37203) Theme: Psalms: Ancient & Modern
Visit the Anglican Connection Booth.
Lunch with the Anglican Connection ‘Focus Group’ – Tuesday, September 11 from 12:00pm to 1:30pm. Theme: ‘Thomas Cranmer & the Psalms, and 9/11.