17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
Paul’s prayer for us reveals the wellspring from which the power and the glory of God rise up and become a reality in our lives. Paul prays that we would grasp hold of something that would pave the way for God’s work in us. What is this amazing something Paul prays that we would get hold of? Three simple words “God loves you.” Some of us may respond “that’s it?” I already get that, some of us may be disappointed, we were hoping for something new and different. After all, how many times do we need to hear “God loves you”? For some, hearing those words may touch you about as deeply as having someone say “God bless you” when you sneeze. So why is it that when Paul talks about knowing that God loves him he is so excited and can hardly contain himself, but when we hear about it, we’re more tempted to yawn than to dance? Is it possible that we don’t really get it? We know it, but we don’t get it. Paul is not praying that God’s people would know that God loves them, but that they would know God’s love. Did you hear the difference? Do you know God’s love, or do you only know that God loves you? As a Biology major I know that the molecular structure of water is a combination of 2 molecules of Hydrogen & 1 molecule of Oxygen. Yet what does that really do for me on a blazing hot summer afternoon when my throat is so parched I can’t even swallow? When I need a drink I could care less about H2O as a chemical formula because my understanding of water doesn’t quench my thirst. My need is not for deeper insights into the meaning of water, I don’t need more knowledge about water, what I need is water, a tall, deep glass of ice cold water. It’s the same with God’s love, if you know that God loves you, but you don’t know His Love, it’s like studying water without drinking it.
In Paul’s desire for us to understand God’s love he exposes us to the four dimensions, width, length height and depth that open the door to the vastness and completeness of God’s love. He prays that we would “understand” how wide, long, high, and deep his love is but the word “understand” as it’s used here doesn’t mean “to gain a mental concept.” It means to grasp hold of. Paul ultimately wants us to get it, not just to consider it in our minds but to let it penetrate our hearts even though he acknowledges that we will never be fully capable.
- The width.
How wide is God’s love? The width of God’s love is the most obvious dimension that distinguishes His love from human love because He loves everyone and He loves them all equally. 2 Peter 3:9 tells us that He desires that all come to know Him, He doesn’t play favorites. (2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.”)
The human race on the other hand often reveals the extent of its love by the harsh treatment of those from other races and socio-economic backgrounds. The truth is that we love certain people but not others and while Christ was saying ‘love your neighbor,’ we were ask in our prejudice, ‘Who is my neighbor?’ Jesus responded by pointing to the Samaritan, who was to the Jew someone they hated and who was not worthy of respect and for the Samaritan the feelings were mutual. Jesus tells us to love even those who hate us, that is what Christ did on the cross, He died because God loves sinners. Sinners like me, like you, like homosexuals, and abortion doctors. God hates those behaviors, as he often hates my behavior and your behavior, but His love is so wide, that it still encompasses them. God longs to set us free from sinful behavior and make us like Christ. He longs for all to experience His love, He is not exclusive and neither should we be, God loves you despite you and we must do the same for others.
- The length.
What is the length of His love? From eternity to eternity, Romans 8:38 tells us that neither the present nor the future can separate us from God’s love. I don’t have to worry about His love running out because God’s love is forever and always. It isn’t just available on Sundays, there are no “regular business hours” for God’s love and the love of God doesn’t take holidays. It also means that God’s love doesn’t give up where ours often does. We tend to offer people love with a certain amount of time to respond and if they don’t we say forget it! Jesus said, “I will never, ever, ever leave you or forsake you.” He is the same today, yesterday and forever, He doesn’t change and His love for us doesn’t change so He doesn’t give up on us. There are those who wonder “will He love me today?” what about tomorrow? There are some who say “I believe He used to love me, but what about now?” Through the prophet Jeremiah God told the nation of Israel: “I have loved you with an everlasting love” – Jeremiah 31:3
We talk about “clinging to the Lord,” in times of trial, but it really is the other way around. It is the Lord Jesus who hangs on to us. How long will He love you? Its forever!