How Can the Bible Relate to Us Today?

Love Is More than a Four-Letter Word [Ephesians 3: 16-19]

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Ephesians 3: 16-19

We, the people of the entire world, all 7,800,000,000 (that’s 7.8 billion people) from every land mass of this world including the research stations on Antarctica, are all battling this COVID-19 pandemic as well as we are able. For too many, COVID is the least of their problems as they yearn for the next meal or clean-enough water.  However, this lesson is not about worry. I addressed that in a series entitled, “What? Me Worry?” in earlier blogs dated July 25, 27, 30 of 2020 and an important reflection on August 8.

The Apostle Paul, the writer of the book (or letter) of Ephesians, summarized and repeated his earlier statements about how great God is and the position of his people in relation to him – and it must be in unity – in Ephesians 3: 1-13.  In fact, he repeated the same themes as he had stated throughout the first three chapters of Ephesians: the greatness of God, his grace, the mystery of God’s plan in Christ, our inheritance with Christ, the power we have through God, the riches that are difficult to comprehend and the expected unity of believers.  Now let’s step to the next major thought as Paul concludes the theology portion of his letter.

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. [Ephesians 3: 16-17a. NIV]

There again are the concepts stated in the earlier passages of Ephesians: “glorious riches,” “strengthen,” “power,” “through (by means of) his Spirit.”  These are important concepts to Paul and they should be to the believer.  And again, the concept of dwelling repeated from earlier in his letter:

“And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” [Ephesians 2: 22. NIV]

Like the tabernacle (God’s dwelling place) in the middle of the encampment during the wanderings of the Hebrew people through the desert after escaping Egyptian slavery, God makes his home in our hearts. He is at home within us, kicking back in an easy chair with a glass of sweet tea. However, don’t misunderstand.  God still actively works with us through each moment of the day.  Now read this:

“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 – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”  [Ephesians 3: 17b-19. NIV]

Paul went from praying that Christ may dwell (make his home) in our hearts through our faith to praying that we will be able to comprehend how huge is the love of Christ for us. To understand this love, we ourselves must first have a basis of love.  The phrases that Paul uses to describe the condition of this love in our lives are pictures of farming and building. 

When I was a child, I lived on a farm outside Springfield, Missouri, USA. There were many tall, thick trees that grew in areas that were not plowed for growing crops.  However, underneath the ground was a layer of limestone that kept the trees from growing their roots deep into the ground. Sometimes at night strong windstorms would blow through. I would wake up the next morning, and I would find a few trees had blown over with their spread-out root systems rising toward the sky.  Their roots were not deep so they were not able to withstand the winds and storms.  Paul wants us to be “rooted” deep in God’s love to enable us to withstand the storms of life.

The other metaphor has to do with building.  When I lived in Seattle, Washington, USA as an older child, skyscrapers were often being built in the downtown area. One could see through viewing holes in the protective fencing the kept people from falling in the pit that was being excavated. The hole where the building was to be built was very, very deep until it reached bedrock. In that pit, beams were pounded down into the rock to make a stabilizing base on which to pour the cement foundation of the skyscraper. This deep and heavy foundation “established” the building in the ground.  God wants us to have our foundation deep and solid in his love.

Once we are unwavering and immovable in our love for God, Paul prays that we will grasp (take hold of) how extensive is the love of Christ.  If you are in a submarine in the deepest part of the ocean, Christ’s love is there.  If you are an astronaut on the moon, Christ’s love is there.  If you are performing research or are on support staff in Antarctica or the Arctic, Christ’s love is there.  Christ’s love is everywhere people are.  Christ’s love is wherever you are today. What a great promise! And Paul wants you to grab on to that knowledge with both hands and keep it close to you.

Paul keeps talking about love. We know what love is, right? Maybe. In the ancient Greek language, there are six words for love.  Two of them are in the New Testament of the Bible: “philia” and “agape.”  Philia is the word for a deep friendship with another person. In the United States, the city of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania is the “City of Brotherly Love.”  The city derives its name for philia (deep friendship) and delphos (brother).

The other word, agape, is more meaningful to believers.  It has a meaning of “selfless or giving love” and is most often attributed to God.  John 3:16 begins, “For God so agape-loved the world that he gave his one and only Son. . . .”  If you’ll notice, this kind of love is not a love that one is able to sit back and enjoy for oneself. This kind of love that Paul wants us to grasp is one that is expressed by doing:  giving to others, caring about and for people, having empathy for the condition of those around us.

To that thought of agape-love, Paul is praying that we will be filled to the brim – like a measuring cup measuring flour – of all the fullness of God.  He desires that we should know God in our lives, and that God’s love would be overflowing in love and caring for others.

Let this time of dealing with the effects of COVID-19 upon our daily lives be a time in which we demonstrate agape-love for others. This is a time of isolation and stress for many people. Let’s see how we can demonstrate God’s self-giving agape-love to others.

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