Sunday, September 24, 2017

Love Begins with Self

“…that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” – Ephesians 3:17-19
The desire to love and be loved is one of the innate characteristics of God that was given us when He created us in His image.  Paul understood that, and in writing these verses in Ephesians 3 desired that we would know the love of Christ, yet also describes it as the love that “passes all knowledge”. 

It seems like a catch 22 situation.  He wants us to know the love of Christ, but then tells us we’ll never understand it.  So what’s the point of trying to understand what we cannot grasp?  Sometimes it’s not the destination, but the journey that brings meaning to our lives.  It’s trying to understand it that will give us what we need.  Though we will never fully gain the knowledge of His love, we will understand in portions that will feed our souls.

We will do just about anything to be loved.  In fact, we’ll do things we would not normally do, things we would be ashamed of, things that take us from who we are - to who we don’t want to be.  I’ve found this is far less true of those who are rooted in the love of Christ.  Knowing His love, His unconditional love of us as who we are, fulfills our desire to be loved.  Along the way, we fall in love with Him, which fulfills our desire to love.

No, that doesn’t mean we stop loving others at that point and focus all our love and desire on Christ.  He himself did not want that. In John 13:34 He “commanded” us to love one another  - not as we choose to love - but even as He loves us.  That isn’t possible if we don’t understand His unconditional love.
It’s a forgiving love.
It’s a selfless love.
It’s love when they are unlovable.
It’s love when they are disobedient.
It’s love when they ignore us.
It’s love when they treat us unfairly.
It’s love when it’s not returned.
It’s a love without end.
Until we know the love of Christ, we cannot truly love as Christ loved us.  Christ “commanded” this kind of love purposefully.  This is the kind of love that allows us to be ourselves, the persons He made us individually to be. 

Look at those around you.  God made some introverts, and some extroverts.  He made some funny, and some don’t have a funny bone in their bodies.  He made some creative, and some without creativity.  He made some great with their hands, and others great with their minds.  He made some to love adventure, and some desire life without excitement.  These variations were purposefully given to us.  But without knowing His love, we will strive to be whomever those around us want us to be instead of the person He created.

God has specific plans for all of us.  His plans require the creative, the adventurous and less adventurous, the quiet and the talkative, those who crack jokes and those who laugh at them, those who give hugs, and those who give handshakes.  We are all specifically designed like a finely tooled part of a complicated machine.  We fit together to become the people He wants us to be. 

But when a mother desires the love of a man so much that she becomes less of a mother, God’s plan for that family is broken.  When a father desires the love of a friend more than that of his family, God’s plans for that family is broken.  When a mother is consumed by the love of her child over the love of her husband, God’s plan for that family is broken.  Broken families….do you know any? 
It all starts with wanting the love of another so much that you are willing to change who you are.  Sure, you can live that life for a while.  But eventually – YOU will surface - and you may not be loved in return.  The antidote is knowing the love of Christ, which allows you to LOVE yourself and love Him more than anyone else.  When you love yourself, you are not willing to drop who you are to please others because you find value in yourself.

Paul expresses that until we know the love of Christ, we cannot “be filled with all the fullness of God. What is the fullness of God?  Simple.  God is love. (1 John 4:8)  A lot of us have gone out into the world to love without having the tools to know how to love correctly.  The good news for you is that it is never too late to discover the love of Christ.  Read His book, the Bible, and discover His love.  Reach out to His people and feel that love.  Experience it.  Dive into it as if it were an ocean!  It will transform the way you feel about yourself, and how you love in return.

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