Ephesians 3:18-19 "And may you have the power to understand, as all God's people should, how wide, how long, 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 fullness of life and power that comes from God."
I've heard this passage many times, even sang the "deep and wide" sunday school song as a kid. but I'm beginning to realize something. It is not until a person begins to tackle the awesome nature of God's love towards them that change within them effectively occurs. Think about it. Think of a sin that you've wrestled with, maybe for years, that you've gained victory over. Did you gain victory over it because the Bible said "thou shalt not". Did conviction alone gnaw at you night and day to stop your harmful habbit or slandering lips or other stumbling block? Or was it the empowerment that came when you realized how much your Father loved you, cherished you, was there day-by-day, moment-by-moment with you? Were you moved to repentance by the width, the lengths, and the depths to which our Lord went to ransom you from that sin so that you could stand before a sinless and holy God, completely justified and without blemish as one of his own.
In truth, every sin we commit can be answered by this love. It is this love that moves the lost to him, not our cute t-shirts or bumper stickers or even tracks. People need this love, need to know it is available to them. I love how the verse above tells us to "understand" the width, depth, and height of God's love - you'll spend the rest of your days pursuing this goal. But in searching it out, you'll be completely transformed, for in seeking its depths it will reform your own capacity to love. Your compassion for others will be expanded, your ability to look upon this planet's masses and be moved to action as Jesus was will be increased.
This is something that God is growing me in daily. The more I grow the more I realize I have just scratched the surface. I mention it in previous posts, but I am not by nature and upbringing a tremendously compassionate person. The most terrible thing about this statement is that I am beginning to realize that I was not too different from the majority of the people around me. I was content to turn the blind eye, ignore the plight of others, and justify my well-being above others suffering as earned rewards for poor choices. How judgemental and how loveless did I walk? I still do. This is how I was brought up.
When I was growing up, we had a wheelchair bound town drunk that we used to make jokes about. He never bathed, was unkempt, long haired, and would literally wheel himself miles to the bars for drinks. I recall one night my father picked him up between two towns about 8 miles apart in the dead of winter during a snow storm. He was wheeling away on the side of the road in sub-zero temperatures to get between towns for his next drink, which was obviously more important than his life or safety. He thanked my dad and I remember my dad recounting how he let him have it. He laid into him as to how foolish it was for him to be out there, how he surely would have died in the elements, what was he thinking? That man did later die in the elements some years later, alone and in his disease. Thinking back to him, I recall his face, the dirt that always seemed to cling to him and the tears come readily forward because I know I did nothing to bring love into that man's life. Sure, I have the excuse that I was merely a teen, but what of the community of 700 people in which he resided? Was there not one person who could have averted that man's course, not one who could have saved him from eternal seperation from God? How many scoldings like my father's did he get? How many verbal beatings was he exposed to, further driving him to the conclusion that he was worth very little so there was very little incentive to live, very little reason to exist but for the warmth of the liquor.
God's invitation isn't just for those of us who grew up in church, or have been blessed to find him. He aches that every single person would know the height, the depth, the width of this love. That they would spend the rest of their days searching this out. They'll never have this opportunity if you and I don't give them that chance. I am confident that I am called to do this on multiple fronts - Jesus said "go into ALL OF THE WORLD" This means I need to be actively figuring out ways to send this word not only into the hearts and minds of the people I am around daily through the witness of my walk, my actions, and my speech but I also need to be active in getting this word into the hands of people around this world. Some are called to physically bring this word. Some are called to help them get there. Regardless - we all have a part to play.
Recently, at the Voice of the Martyrs conference, I was struck by how those standing before me could endure such terrible persecutions, witness such hateful horrors and still desire to continue. It became quickly evident - it was not strength of character that held these people, these souls who except for circumstances were not that different from most of us aside from birth in other nations. What distinguished these individuals was love. Their love for their Savior overwhelmed their concern for themselves. Their love for His commands to spread his gospel, to heal the sick, to minister to the needy. Their love for him was so great as to desire just one more to know this magnificent Savior, even at the cost of themselves. It was love.
Paul states it in the "love chapter", 1 Corinthians 13, that without love all of your best works are noisy and brash and useless. How many efforts are just that before God today? How many churches are throwing up dischord and brash noise. How many of us are creating noise and disharmony? On the outside our efforts and our smiles indicated goodwill and genuine concern but in our hearts another story is told, one which God reads all too clearly. God's love is perfect. His word states that he IS love. We will never achieve that perfection on this earth but we are to search it, to pursue it. God wants us to know the width, the depth, the height, wants us to experience the fullness of his love - and yes his love does fill. It fills to overflowing. When we are filled with his love, we cannot walk this earth and view others the same, even those who seek to hurt you because we then realize as Ephesians 6:12 states, it is not against people that we are wrestling/contending in this world, but against spiritual forces. We see past the person's faults and love them. You might just be the first person in their life to do this and this might be the key to unlocking their heart as the Holy Spirit has been preparing it. It all starts with love.