And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, 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.
The prayer continues. For context’s sake, let’s remember the prayer so far: 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.
For Christ to dwell in our hearts through faith necessarily means that we will be rooted and established in love—which brings us to our most fundamental problem. We tend to err by elevating a penultimate concern to an ultimate category. For instance, many have elevated purity as the end game of the Christian life. “‘Be holy as I am holy,’ says the Lord (see 1 Peter 1:16), for without holiness no one will see God (see Heb. 12:14).” Another penultimate concern is power. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you shall be my witnesses,” said Jesus to his apostles (see Acts 1:8). Purity and power are important but not ultimate ends. So what is the ultimate be-all and end-all aspiration of life?
Love. The pure and powerful essence and nature of God is love. Love is purity without pride, and power without position. We do not properly grasp that love is both the means and the end of eternal life.
Notice the movement from verse 17 to 18: And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power.
Love is not only the divine nature of God; it is the divine power of God. The kingdom of the world runs according to the love of power. The kingdom of God moves according to the power of love. We have a very anemic, soft, and fluffy vision of love these days. It’s not a new thing. Even Jesus needed to qualify what he meant by love. He brought his entire message down to one commandment: “Love one another, as I have loved you” (see John 15).
The only way we can move in the power of love is for “Christ to dwell in our hearts by faith” (Eph. 3:17). The only way Christ can dwell in our hearts by faith is for us to be “strengthened with power through his Spirit in our inner being” (v. 16). Are you seeing the logic of this apostolic prayer? Power comes from love.
What is this power? It is the power to grasp; to see the unseen; to take hold of that which is uncontainable; to comprehend the incomprehensible; and yes, to know what is unknowable beyond the fruit of knowledge. What are we grasping?
How wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ . . .
How wide is the love of Christ? Infinitely wide. How long is the love of Christ? Infinitely long. How high is the love of Christ? Infinitely high. How deep is the love of Christ? Infinitely deep. Paul all at once describes something that is catastrophically cosmic yet cataclysmically close. It touches the five senses while transcending them. This love is from another dimension.
Everything about our perceptive capacities is finite, save our capacity to perceive the love of God, which through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit, is infinite. Do you grasp the implications of this? It means love actually expands all of our perceptive capacities. When we see through the lenses of divine holy love, we can see wider, longer, higher, and deeper than is possible apart from this gift. This love opens up the possibility for us to see as God sees’to look at another person and see not merely what is or is not, but what once was and what is now possible. The love of God is the power of God. We see this love perfectly manifest in Jesus, and we are given the capacities to live and move and have our being in this love through the indwelling Holy Spirit.
So what are we missing? Why do we seemingly live in such a low tide of this love? There’s a word we skipped right over in our text. See if you can spot it. The word is in verse 18.
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people . . .
The word is “together.” Because love is the fruit of relationship, it cannot be grasped outside of relationship. It can be known only at the level of knowledge. The issue is not knowledge but knowing. Our big problem with present-day Christian faith is not getting the content right (though this is essential) but making the connections real. It’s why God became a person (a.k.a. Jesus) instead of merely sending a precept (a.k.a. “love one another”).
The love of God will be made known in and through our relationships or it will remain mere knowledge. This is why the journey into the second half of the gospel is imperative.
Abba Father, we thank you for your Son, Jesus, whom we know a lot about but whom we must know much more personally and relationally. Jesus, forgive me for skimming the surface of your way of love. I want to delve into the depth, breadth, length, and width of this ultimate reality. I know you are the way. Lead me to others who can walk this way with me. We pray in Jesus’ name, amen.
What might it look like for you to be “rooted and established in love”?
Has this “how high and deep and long and wide is the love of Christ” become a platitude for you? How might it become something more?
Are you growing more in your knowledge about Jesus or in actually knowing Jesus? How can you make that shift?
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