“in order that you might be able to attain with all of the saints that which is the breadth and the length and the height and the depth to know the surpassing knowledge of the love of Christ and that you might be filled by all of the fullness of God.”
As Paul waxes elegant with his blessing upon the Ephesian church, we perhaps should ask a simple question. Is it possible for any finite being to really know the breadth, length, etc… of the love of Christ? The answer, of course, is a resounding, “no!” We certainly experience it as believers not just in our salvation but also every day in our sanctification, but we will never comprehend the fullness thereof. In fact, even after a millennium in the presence of God, we will still be awed by that which we have yet to understand about the character of our bridegroom.
My shelves are lined with books of those who have sought to plumb the depths of the love of Christ, but my library is hardly exhaustive. In fact, yet today, people still write books seeking to further plumb the depths. No matter how deep we explore, the bottom will still be out of sight. But why would Paul wish something as a blessing that the people could not attain? The simple answer is that there is no sweeter and no more joyful pursuit in life than to pursue the depth of Christ love so that we might be filled with the fullness of God.
Later in this letter, Paul will make the comparison between marriage and Christ and his church. How appropriate that is and how useful it is as we seek to understand what Paul is communicating to us. As I write these words, I have been married to my wife for over twenty years. There is still more and more that I am learning about her character and personality and that she is learning about mine. I would have it no other way. There is great joy in slowly learning a person over time. I have no doubt that by the time we have been married 50 years, presuming we live that long, I will still be learning things about my lovely wife. As Christians, we make it our mission to learn the personality of Christ our bridegroom and we will have eternity to do so. Yet, as he is inexhaustible, we will never exhaust his fullness.
What is sad is when professing Christians become content with only a surface understanding of their Lord. Would you be content with only a surface understanding of your spouse? Is your goal just to get married and once married, check that off of your list and then ignore the one to whom you are married? That would be foolish, yet that is how many Christians behave toward their Savior Bridegroom. Beloved, content yourself with a life-long pursuit of the love of Christ. Such a pursuit will never disappoint because your quest will never reach the bottom, the side, or the top of Christ’s love for those he redeemed.
Recently, I was reading about the criminal investigation that took place around the shooting of President Kennedy. One of the investigators made note of something that I found quite striking: the shoes that President Kennedy was wearing looked as if they had been re-soled at least 10 times. To us, in our modern “throw-away” society, that sounds quite odd, since indeed it is often easier and cheaper to replace something than to repair or restore it to use. While the culture in 1963 was quite different than our own in the sense that “throw-away” was not the choice, the investigator was still struck that the most powerful man in the world would model such frugality with respect to his footwear.
As I was reflecting on this I began to reflect on the nature of relationships. How often, much like we would do with an old pair of shoes or a malfunctioning DVD player, we treat our human relationships things that can be disposed of when they no longer seem convenient and practical. How often, when we have trouble or frustrations with friends, we simply cut off relations and find new friends with whom we can do things. Even in marriages, the “till death do us part” has been superseded by “as long as we are in love” or “as long as it seems good in our eyes.” The same mentality seems to be applied to every aspect of our lives—our friendships, our jobs, and even our churches.
Yet, relationships are an interesting thing. Typically, when relationships are stressed the hardest, yet are able to survive the trial that brings them stress, they grow stronger rather than weaker. The scars are still ever-present reminders of what has been endured, though if shared, they also show as a sign to others of what can be endured in the grace of Christ. If you take the time to look around you at those friends with whom you are closest, you will typically find the evidence to support the principle—these closest ones are the ones you have not only laughed with, but you have also cried with and even bled with.
The key is that healthy and deep relationships are not easy and require maintenance. A pair of nice shoes needs to be polished at regular intervals. The polish not only serves to keep the leather shiny and to hide blemishes to the casual glance (so they don’t look shabby), but it also helps to keep the leather pliable and healthy. The polish that we apply to our own relationships is the polish of love—love that is, as is described in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. Relationships like this also have a secondary benefit: they draw others into the relationship. People have an inherent need to be in healthy relationship with others, modeling such will naturally draw others. Our relationships may indeed be worn and scarred, but there is no battered life that the love of Christ cannot make fresh and new.