“… to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.” Ephesians 3:19
Years ago, I found myself sitting in a Chicago church Sunday school class for adults who had mental health challenges of various kinds. Most of them lived in half-way houses or were homeless. The teacher, who also lived with these challenges, had the main point of his lesson memorized so that whatever stories he told or sub-points he made they all came back around to message that Jesus loved them.
During the lesson one of the staff members of the church stuck his head in the door of the classroom and loudly asked, “Who loves you, babe?” Everyone joyfully shouted back, “Jesus!” It was obvious to me that the love of Christ was a constant theme for these believers. That’s the most memorable Sunday class I ever attended.
Who loves me? is the question we all ask. The “who” of that question reveals the important people in our lives. Who cares if someone we don’t know loves us? We want to be loved by certain people because their love somehow matters to us. The “love” of that question is important because we want to find peace in some relationship. Being loved, and knowing it, means we can take a deep breath in the presence of another person. And the “me” of the question is important because we know that in some way being loved is connected to our personhood and identity.
The multi-layered prayer for the Ephesian church includes the request that they may know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge. It is Christ’s love that matters most because in love he gave up his life that we would be reconciled to God. The fact that Christ loved us by dying for our sins means we can breathe in God’s presence, knowing we have peace with him. Christ’s love is not an impersonal force, it is directed to individuals- you and me- to bring us into the fullness of life with God.
To know the love of God is the prayer of the Bible for all of us. To know the love of God is the purpose of our Bible study. The Bible reveals the dimensions of God’s love for us in Christ. From the Bible, we learn that God loved us by sending Jesus Christ to die for our sins, and that he continues to love us as his children who are forgiven of sin and reconciled to him by faith. The Bible and the cross of Christ tell us God loves us.
I suppose there were other classes going on in that Chicago church that day. And churches throughout the city were organized according to age groups and special interests to help people study the Bible. I can imagine there were discussions about the history of the Bible, the context of the passage being taught, what words meant in the original language they were written, and how the message applies to life. I just hope at the end of the lesson everyone left knowing who loves them.
This weekend, read Ephesians 3 and pray that God will show us his love on Sunday as we gather for worship at Grace Community Church.