Summary: As the church, we can model the love of Jesus as we love and accept people. Or we can be exclusive in our love and forfeit our calling to be an authentic church.
A television commercial depicts three business people sitting in the back seat of a taxi. The taxi is stalled in heavy downtown traffic. One man goes berserk.
He screams that they will miss the crucial business luncheon they were supposed to go to. The important documents they brought with them will not be delivered in time. They will be embarrassed. They will lose the contract. Another of the passengers also becomes frantic with distress.
Calmly, with a knowing smile, the businesswoman sitting between the two men opens her laptop computer, takes out her cellular phone, connects the two, and faxes the documents from her computer to their destination. The two men look amazed and then breathe a sigh of relief.
The apostle Paul had an even better idea. He was far removed from the churches that he knew and loved in Asia Minor. He wanted very much to communicate an important message to them. But, worse than being stuck in a taxi, he was confined to a Roman prison cell. So what did he do? He wrote a letter. Actually, the letter was a scroll delivered to the churches and read to each of the six congregations in the area.
Too, Paul did something else. He used a means of communication more powerful than faxes and cellular phones. He prayed for the church.
Earlier in this letter, we saw that Paul had prayed, thanking God for his fellow believers' faith in Jesus and love for the saints (1:15). He had prayed also for their increased wisdom about the Father's purpose in Christ (1:16-23).
Now, in Ephesians 3:14-21, Paul prays a second time. Paul said, "For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives it name..." Paul pictures himself physically kneeling in prayer. The typical Jewish posture in prayer was standing with the hands stretched out and the palms extended upwards. Paul's picture of himself kneeling may indicate the agony and concern he felt for the church.
What does Paul pray for? He prays that the church may be strengthened internally through the power of the Spirit (3:16). Paul knew what the infant church needed most. What the church needed was greater empowerment of their Christian commitment. With such inner empowerment, the church could confront any obstacle that might arise. But, without this strong, inner empowerment for their commitment, the church would falter at the slightest provocation.
Paul prays for more.
He prays that Christ may indwell their hearts through faith. He wants the church to be a home for Christ as he resides in their hearts (3:17). He prays that the believers may be "rooted and grounded in love" (3:17). Just as a plant must be rooted in good soil to be healthy and productive, even so must the church be rooted in and nurtured by love.
Then Paul comes to the pivotal part of his prayer: "I pray that you may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God" (3:18-19).
It was as if Paul invited the believers to look in every direction ... to the skies above, to the depths of the sea below; to every horizon whether north, south, east or west ... and suddenly realize that the love of Christ is as large and extensive as that! Paul wanted his readers to "comprehend" ... literally in Greek, to get down clearly in their understanding .... what this love of Christ was all about. Thus, as one New Testament scholar puts it, "There is to be not only a grounding in love to the bottom of our hearts but also a grasping of love to the top of our minds." Let's examine each of these four dimensions of love.
First let's consider....
The Breadth of Love
How wide is the love of God? Is it only as broad as a mountain stream? Or a catfish pond on a farm? Or the might Mississippi River? Or is it wider?
Some would like to restrict the size of God's love. But God's love does not honor our puny borders. His love does not stop just because we hang a sign out that reads: "Keep out!" Rather, God's love is like a giant tidal wave that surges forward whether we desire it or not. It is like a mighty rushing river that overflows our provincial banks to spread goodness on both the righteous and unrighteous.
God's love is not limited to one geographical section, such as the South. It is not restricted to one nation such as the United States. It is not confined to one civilization, such as the Western World. Rather, God's love embraces all people in all places of all tongues on earth.