Sunday, October 17, 2010

God's Love: Part VIII, "Experience the Width"

Last week, I mentioned Paul’s prayer for us in Ephesians three, verse eighteen, that all of the followers of Jesus would experience the extravagant dimensions of God’s love. The NIV version of the Bible reads from verses sixteen through nineteen,

“I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, having been rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

Since that reads like a mouthful, we’ll break it down a bit! For those of us who, by faith, have chosen the life Jesus offers (explained in “God’s Love, Part VI, “Our Response"), Christ dwells in our hearts. (it is a choice, friends; we must choose) As a result—God being the very essence of love itself and Jesus the flesh and blood example (Colossians 1:15)—like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, so are we firmly planted in His love!

The dimensions Paul spoke of concerning Christ’s love for us are four:  width, length, height, and depth. It is simply a means to show the magnitude of the vision that opens before us as we seek to comprehend such love. A love that is more vast than the deepest and widest ocean, yet without boundary!

Picture yourself in the center of that mighty ocean. Just as the water envelops you as a glove, with each dimension, so does the love of Jesus! Underneath you, all around you is the current of His love! (taken from the song, “O the Deep Deep Love of Jesus,” by Samuel Francis) You cannot move, and His love not move with you. Its compass is complete, and penetrates every fiber of our being.

Though Paul offered this vision as a whole, breaking down each dimension may help reveal more truths of God’s love, and dispel any lies from our enemy. Lies that seek to steal our believing such love and our full experience of it!

Job 11:9 tells us His love is broader, wider than the sea. Imagine a door opening that wide—wide enough to allow all of humankind to pass through. The love of God is that wide. He does not pick and choose whom He will love. He created every one of us, including you, and His love is extended to all ages, gender, races, nations, and ranks.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son.” (John 3:16a) That includes all of us! Even though we have betrayed Him, and while we were still sitting in our stench, God loved us enough to send His Son to die for us. (God’s Love:  Part III, “What Happened?”) Not because He had to, but because He chose to. (Part IV, “Love’s Response")

“But God demonstrates His own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

Yet, something still whispers in the heart of a woman that we are somehow, or in some way outside the scope of God’s love. (men, too, but we’re focusing on women right now) Society has dealt us a raw blow, belittling our worth. Sadly, the church has not always served us better. Our role is diminished, misunderstood, and our very creation is often viewed as an “afterthought.”

In God’s love:  Part II, “Creation’s Story,” we explored how the order of things God created grew in detail, complexity, and awe. Like a symphony, it builds and builds; a crescendo, until finally, it reaches its climax. God, having created every living thing, including Adam, assesses His handiwork and realizes it is not complete.

Enter Eve. The astonishing crescendo. The final touch of God’s masterpiece. The Crown of Creation, as she is referred to in Captivating. Paul writes that man “is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man.” (1 Corinthians 11:7) You are not an afterthought.

I can hear some of us scoffing, Yeah, right. Try telling that to society and much of the church. We’ve been duped to believe we are a lesser gender, and that we were created to be man’s slave. We feel unseen, unsought, and uncertain (Captivating). With such thoughts, we either take control, or fall in a heap of worthlessness.

We must not look to a fallen world to tell us our worth. What if the part we were given in this story is much grander and vital than we’ve been made to believe? Thankfully, it is!

“When God creates Eve, he calls her an ezer kenegdo. ‘It is not good for the man to be alone, I shall make him [an ezer kenegdo]’ (Genesis 2:18 Alter). Hebrew scholar Robert Alter, who has spent years translating the book of Genesis, says that this phrase is ‘notoriously difficult to translate.’ The various attempts we have in English are ‘helper’ or ‘companion’ or the notorious ‘help meet.’ Why are these translations so incredibly wimpy, boring, flat…disappointing? What is a help meet, anyway? What little girl dances through the house singing, ‘One day I shall be a help meet’? Companion? A dog can be a companion. Helper? Sounds like Hamburger Helper. Alter is getting close when he translates it ‘sustainer beside him.’
                The word ezer is used only twenty other places in the entire Old Testament. And in every other instance the person being described is God himself, when you need him to come through for you desperately.
                Most of the contexts are life and death, by the way, and God is your only hope. Your ezer. If he is not there beside you…you are dead. A better translation therefore of ezer would be ‘lifesaver.’ Kenegdo means alongside, or opposite to, a counterpart.”
(John and Stasi Eldredge, Captivating)

WHOA. This is Eve. This is woman. This is you. And I dare say this is why God loves you. Not because He “has to.” He sees who you really are, and He longs to redeem the ezer kenegdo hidden inside.

You are not outside the scope of His love! No matter what you’ve done, no matter your background, God loves you. Jesus spread His arms “wide” enough to bear the world’s sin on the cross to ransom us. To ransom you. That is love! You need only to choose Him. (God’s Love:  Part VI, “Our Response”) Then, you will be in a position to fully experience the extravagant dimensions of His love!

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