Breadth and Length and Height and Depth, Part 4

Prayer for the Readers Eph 3:14-21

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that he may grant you in accord with the riches of his glory to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner self, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the holy ones what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to accomplish far more than all we ask or imagine, by the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.[1]

and to know the love of Christ

γινώσκω, to know, is used 246 times in the New Testament to mean everything from “come to know” and “feel” to the Biblical sense of “carnal knowledge between a man and woman.” Thus Paul is praying that we come to understand this love that Christ has for us intimately, fully, personally, familiarly, lovingly, and the previous dimensional phrase of breadth and length and height and depth emphasizes just how closely we are to scrutinize, relish and adore this most precious gift of the Father.

How do we know Christ’s love: The way we came to know Christ’s love was that he laid down his life for us. [1Jn 3:16] That life, that Love, we see exhibited throughout His public ministry on both a very personal individual basis as well as for the multitude: healing the sick, raising the dead, feeding the hungry, preaching the Kingdom; casting out demons, and praying for his disciples and us [Mt 14:14; Jn 11:35,38; Mt 15:32; Mk 6:34; Mt 8:16; Jn 17:20-21].

His words also conveyed his love, for example: Jerusalem, Jerusalem,…how many times I yearned to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her young under her wings, but you were unwilling! [Mt 28:37]; As the Father loves me, so I also love you. [Jn 15:9]; As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. [Jn 13:34]; This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. [Jn 15:34]

Even his looks conveyed love: Jesus, looking at him,[and] loved him. [Mk 10:21]; and Jesus’ looks of love at Peter when he was remorseful after the Resurrection [John 21:15-19], but even when He was denying Him: the Lord turned and looked at Peter and Peter remembered the word of the Lord… went out and began to weep bitterly. [Lk 22: 61-62], I have prayed that your own faith may not fail; and once you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers. [Lk 22:32]

But how about here and now, in my own life: The way we may be sure that we know him is to keep his commandments. Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him. [1Jn 2:3-4]. This is the second part of the proof: The way we came to know Christ’s love was that he laid down his life for us; so we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. [1Jn 3:16]

and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge,

The Holy Spirit does not desert anyone who is open to Him, to His love, to His grace. However, being open to Him, His love, His grace, is different than being inspired by Him. When I begin to think that I am owed inspiration, that inspiration is the only way to pray, that inspiration is somehow necessary for me to talk to God, then hubris, pride, self-aggrandizement, selfish ego trips have taken over and gotten in the way of learning from Jesus and being meek and humble of heart, of being still and knowing that God is God; of doing what is right, loving mercy and humbly walking with my God. [Mt 11:29; Ps 46:10; Mi 6:8] It is time to do just that.

What knowledge I have is paltry, miniscule, so much straw, as Thomas put it, compared with the experience, the living of Your love, Jesus. Knowledge is not what comprises holiness, righteousness, humility, being meek and humble of heart. God is Love and no matter what else we may think we know about God, no matter how much we may write about Your revelation, no matter how much we want to think we have a handle on You, God, and “understand” You, we are totally blind and ignorant if we do not first experience love.

St. Paul said it best: If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing. [1Cor 13:1-3] To have love, to love, one must first experience love, one must allow oneself to be loved, not cut myself off from love. I must open myself to the experience of love, I must be willing to suffer the pain of love as well as the ecstasy, the depth as well as the height. I must find love in the length and breadth of the earth, in places where I never thought it existed, in the barrios of Brazil, in the bullet torn streets of Fallujah, in the pitiable prisons of China, wherever Jesus has moved hearts to reach out beyond the frightened, frail, finitude of one’s humanity and embrace another human being with one’s heart, there is love. That is what surpasses intellectual knowledge, book knowledge, conjecture knowledge.

so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

The purpose of this exercise, this experience journey of exploring the love of Christ which surpasses all understanding, is not just for the experience itself, albeit amazing, wonderful, joy filled, awesome, inciting adoration. The purpose is so that we may be filled with all the fullness of You, God.

At first blush, this may seem impossible, a finite, miniscule part of the universe, of creation, to be filled with the immensity, the grandeur, the awesomeness of God. But for a God who became man, a God who transformed his body and blood into bread and wine, a God who raised His Son from the dead to everlasting life, filling you and me with His fullness is just a run-of-the-mill miracle. As inlet may be filled from the ocean without diminishing the latter, so I may be filled with God. Better, when the waves of the ocean wash up on the sand, they leave water in the depressions of God’s footprints. I am a footprint of God, there to witness to His presence, to make known His walking among us, to be a sign of His passing by, and then I disappear into the infinitude of His Love.

It is not that I can contain the completeness of God, though hubris and pride may entice me to take over His role and think that I am God. The folly of all sin there lies. But that you and I are each one facet of the infinite diamond that is God, His image and likeness imprinted in flesh. Look around you and reach out and touch the face of God.

With what may we be filled? With God: God is and that “is-ness” is love; so by virtue of our very being, God and love are an integral part of all that is, including me. That is an awesome understanding…that everything not just participates in but is an actual occasion of the love of God, one tiny glimpse of what God is and has in store for us. A blade of grass, a amazing living factory taking the riches of the earth and refashioning them into fiber and chlorophyll, recycling carbon dioxide as clean, fresh oxygen…literally fantastic, and it has been going on and on for millions and billions of years without a single moment of assistance, direction, oversight, management, control or even encouragement from me or any human being. It is this God, who populates the cosmos with being, whose fullness we have all received, [Jn 1:16] this very fullness with which we are filled.

With whom may we be filled: Jesus explained that all three Persons of the Trinity wish to abide in me…in ME! For we are the temple of the living God; as God said: “I will live with them and move among them, and I will be their God and they shall be my people.” [2Cor 6:16; Ez 36:27; Jer 32:38] Whoever acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God remains in him and he in God. [1Jn 4:15] Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him. [Jn 14:23]

It is amazing how often we are reassured that the Spirit dwells in us; through these, we know the Spirit of God is:

  • He is Life itself: Hasten to answer me, LORD; for my spirit fails me.[Ps 143:7]
  • He is God’s very presence, Holiness itself: Where is the one who placed in their midst his holy spirit. [Is 63:11]; Do not drive me from before your face, nor take from me your holy spirit. [Ps 51:13]
  • He enables us to obey God: I will put my spirit within you so that you walk in my statutes, observe my ordinances, and keep them. [Ez 36:27]
  • He is the proof we are adopted by God: As proof that you are children, God sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” [Gal 4:6]
  • That we are living temples of God: Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?[1Cor 3:16]
  • We have this Gift of the Spirit by which we are God’s: Do you not know that your body is a temple of the holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?[1Cor 6:19]
  • It is our duty and privilege to keep this sacred trust safe: Guard this rich trust with the help of the holy Spirit that dwells within us.[2Tim 1:14]
  • It is our proof that we live in You, God, as You live in us: This is how we know that we remain in him and he in us, that he has given us of his Spirit. [1 Jn 4:13]
  • Thus, we are not just mortal, just body, but eternal, spirit: But you are not in the flesh; on the contrary, you are in the spirit, if only the Spirit of God dwells in you. [Rom 8:9]
  • We are anointed as holy, priests, prophets and kings, set apart and taught by the Spirit: As for you, the anointing that you received from him remains in you, so that you do not need anyone to teach you. But his anointing teaches you about everything and is true and not false; just as it taught you, remain in him. [1Jn 2:27]
  • If we remain holy through the Spirit dwelling in us throughout our life and unto death, the Father will give us eternal life through the same Spirit: If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit that dwells in you. [Rom 8:11]

And that is the fullness of God dwelling in us.

[1] Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

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