I’ll never forget the first time I told Candy that I loved her. I was 20 years old and she was 19. We were sitting side by side in my rust-colored, rust-covered Plymouth in the parking lot of a fine dining establishment called Donut Land.
Mustering up my courage, I looked her in the eyes and said, “I love you.” Candy looked back at me and said . . . nothing. That’s right: nothing! She was speechless, and I was embarrassed. The date ended awkwardly, and I returned to my college dorm wondering if I had made an enormous blunder.
After being married nearly 44 years, today I have no doubt about Candy’s love for me. I realize now why she remained silent when I first professed my love for her. It wasn’t because she didn’t love me. It was because she took love very seriously. She viewed love as a major commitment, so she refused to say it lightly. When she finally stated her love for me, she meant it—and over the years she has shown it over and over again through countless words and sacrificial acts.
God’s Pure Love
Love is an action word—a verb more than a noun. Love commits, gives, sacrifices, and pursues the best interests of others. Selfishness takes, controls, manipulates, and uses others’ bodies and emotions for personal gratification. Christians don’t love perfectly, but we must take love seriously. Jesus calls love the distinguishing mark of his followers (John 13:35). Paul considers it “the greatest of these” (1 Corinthians 13:13) and the first among the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). John insists, “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
In Ephesians chapter three, Paul makes several points about God’s pure love.
It stretches beyond normal measurements. How “wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” (v. 18)? Wide enough to encompass every ethnic group, every age group, every individual on earth. Long enough to extend throughout human history and cover each of us from conception till death and beyond. High enough to fill the throne-room of Heaven. Deep enough to lift us up when we hit bottom.
It stretches beyond our full comprehension. In an ironic turn of phrase, Paul challenges us “to know this love that surpasses knowledge” (v. 19). How can we know something that surpasses knowledge? God’s love is beyond our full comprehension, but we can keep learning more about it and keep digging our roots deeper into it. Pursuing God’s love is like hiking up a mountain. It’s strenuous at times, and the path takes dangerous dips and turns, but the view grows more beautiful the higher we climb.
It is within our grasp. Paul insists that we can know and be filled with God’s pure love. When that happens, the Lord will accomplish in us “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (vv. 20, 21).
Two thousand years ago on a hill called Calvary, the Lord Jesus made an unselfish, costly personal investment in our well-being—the ultimate gift of love. Today, the risen Christ calls us to die to selfishness and devote ourselves without reservation to serving God and others. That’s what it means to take love seriously.
David Faust serves as the Associate Minister at East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Lesson study ©2018, Christian Standard Media. Print and digital subscribers are permitted to make one print copy per week of lesson material for personal use. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.