And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, 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. Ephesians 3:17-19 (NIV)
I once heard a preacher tell a story that really stuck with me.
He talked about being a little kid and how much he enjoyed it when his dad would take him out fishing. His dad spent much time on the road for work Monday through Friday, so their Saturday morning fishing trips were always the highlights of his week. He and his dad would wake up early then travel to a nearby fishing hole (most were about a 30-minute drive) and see what they could catch. One day his dad told him to pack a lunch because they were going to fish in a different spot – a lake that was an hour and a half drive away, and they would be out there the whole day.
It turned out to be Lake Martin, and it was bigger than any body of water he had ever seen! As he and his dad set out in a little boat into the middle of the lake, they were completely surrounded on all four sides by deep blue water. Overwhelmed by everything, he said, “Dad – look at how big this lake is!” The father, in his deep Alabama accent and with a dose of country wisdom, answered back, “Yep – and just imagine, what you can see is only the top.”
In Ephesians 3:18, Paul implored the church of Ephesus to comprehend the full scope of Christ’s love. He said, “I pray that you may have the power to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.” His inference was clear. While he hoped they could grasp the full depth of Christ’s love, the reality was that they hadn’t quite made it there yet, or…they were only seeing the top.
A limitation in our earthly experience keeps us from seeing the absolute fullness of God’s incomprehensible love. We are like that little kid, out in a massive lake, looking out over its vastness and marveling at its size. And then we realize that’s just the top of it! Imagine if, by some superpower, you could lift that entire lake up into the air and see it in its fullness – not just the surface but the width and depth and height of the entire thing. How much more amazing would it be then?
When we look at the cross, we can clearly see the sacrificial love of God. But can we see just how deep that love runs – from the cross all the way back to Genesis 3 and the Garden of Eden when sin first entered the picture? Can we see how far into the future love extends – from the cross to the wedding supper of the Lamb in Revelation 19? God’s grace and mercy at Calvary are immense – but it’s only the top of his love. That love extends back to the foundation of the world and continues running all the way to its culmination. An old hymn says it well, “Marvelous grace of our loving Lord, grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt” (Grace Greater Than Our Sin by Julia Johnston).
There is a new song that says it well also: “What love could remember, no wrongs we have done; Omniscient, all-knowing, He counts not their sum. Thrown into a sea without bottom or shore; Our sins, they are many, His mercy is more” (From His Mercy Is More by Matt Papa).
The love of Christ exceeds all our expectations and our ability to understand and experience it. But that doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate it.
Like a little kid on a big lake marveling at only the top.
Written by Kevin Wood, Guest Contributor