“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.”
Ephesians 3:18 NLT
Another verse with that “power” word. Some would question how a helpless prisoner could write about power. But that would be because they don’t understand anything about God’s power and what He had planned for Paul’s life. In this verse Paul was praying that God’s people would grasp how extensive and complete God’s love is, but Paul thought that God’s power would be required to help them understand.
We live in a three-dimensional world. If we pick up any object we can see that it has length, height and depth. Three dimensions. If we consider our homes, they have three dimensions – length, height and depth. We have transport systems that switch between two-dimensional and three-dimensional travel, for example an aircraft. And in this technical age we have very clever computer apps that are able to design three dimensional objects and then we have 3D printers that will manufacture them. Amazing! But our physical world is just how God designed and created it, in three dimensions.
But in our verse today, it was as though Paul was introducing a fourth dimension. He wrote about width, length, height and depth. So what did he mean? Was it just a repetitive slip of his pen? Or did he have something else in mind, in his thoughtful prayer? Something else relevant and to do with God’s love?
I’m sure the theologians have their answers, but for me I believe Paul was saying something significant about God’s power. Whatever we think, or the Ephesians thought, there is something about God’s love that is, well, just complete. It is so extensive that we will never totally understand it, and then by a huge margin. It has depths that we will never be able to plumb. It has height that is unmeasurable. It has width that extends across every human being who has ever lived, or who is yet to come. Our world is permeated by God’s love. But this fourth dimension? I believe that this is eternity. For me, Paul was describing a love that was not only unmeasurable in our three dimensional space, but was with us for all time, for eternity.
And so it is today. We pilgrims are traveling through an amazing cosmos. We have all that we need for physical life – air, water, food etc. – but we also have all that we need for our spiritual life. And it starts and ends with God’s love. I imagine it to be all around us like oxygen but for our very spirits. It is there all around us, but we cannot see it with our physical senses. It’s not something we can measure. But God’s love is so extensive and complete that words cannot describe it. Was that Paul’s difficulty as he wrote this verse from the confines of his mind, from the confines of his prison cell? We received a glimpse of God’s love at Calvary, when His Son, Jesus, gave His life for us, for the redemption of our sins. And the same love is still around us today. Seasoned with God’s grace. Disseminated by the Holy Spirit. Covering us day by day. And all we have to do is take deep spiritual breaths to receive it. No wonder in that prison cell, as the enormity of God’s love suddenly hit him, that Paul fell to his knees. What else could he do before our truly loving God? And the same for us. What else can we do? And on our knees we humbly express our praise and thanks, worshipping at His feet.
In our pilgrimage through life, we do so, rubbing shoulders with our fellow members of society, with our family, with our friends. But do we individually bask in a God-love-bubble? In splendid isolation, keeping His love just to ourselves? There’s something about God’s love that has to be shared. We are wired to spread this love to those around us, the unloved, the lonely, the weary, the spiritually starving. There is something within us that bursts to tell others. We can’t keep it in. So in our war-torn world, we do what Jesus said, we love our enemies. We love the unlovely. Warts and all. And perhaps, through us, they too will feel the love of God in all its width, its height, its length, its depth; the oxygen of God’s Spirit infusing into their very own souls as well as ours. Jackie Pulling is quoted as saying, “God wants us to have soft hearts and hard feet. The trouble with so many of us is that we have hard hearts and soft feet”. She explained that we need to have soft hearts to love people, and hard feet to keep on loving them. Let us pray that we too have soft hearts, with the power to understand “How deep [God’s] love is“.