I pray that you may … know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.Ephesians 3:19
We’ve known for a long time that when children are loved unconditionally, they flourish – especially where that unconditional love is found in their parents and their home. From the safe place of knowing that total acceptance, they can try hard, fail hard, celebrate success, pick themselves up when they fall, experiment and grow in their understanding of themselves and the weorld around them. The effect of that may wane somewhat as they grow older and leave home, but it remains present. I spoke to someone recently who had just lost their second parent, and they described how, for the first time ever, they truly felt they were on their own in life.
The love of God is also intended to make us flourish. Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians is shot through and through with God’s love: he prays that they will be rooted and established in it, that they will understand how vast it is, and that in knowing it, they may be “filled with all the fullness of God”. What does that mean? Well, he goes on to explore that in the coming chapter: as we are filled with all of God’s fullness, we will walk in a manner worthy of the Gospel, we will live humbly and gently, showing love and patience to each other, preferring the unity of the Holy Spirit to our individualism. This is only possible to the extent that we grasp God’s love for us.
God’s love also causes us to value things differently. Paul is able to say the Christians in Philippi: “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ!” The love of God doesn’t just give us resolve to resist sin and worldliness; it re-orders our affections so that we value Christ and His ways more than the things the world offers.
The Song of Songs is often read as an allegory of God’s love for His people. Following an outpouring of the husband’s love for his bride, the chorus respond: “eat and drink; drink your fill of love!” This is a provocation to us, too – are we “eating and drinking our fill” of God’s love, or getting by on “just enough”? The more we dwell on it, thank God for it, and seek to grasp it, the more we will be changed.