I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
There was a time when I was young that I wasn’t sure how much longer I could go on trying to be a Christian. It didn’t come for any lack of trying! I tried hard! I went to church twice on Sunday, taught a Sunday School class, and returned for more once or twice during the week. I tried hard to live a good moral life, a Christian life as I understood it, but was feeling empty. I frequently felt like the little child plucking petals from a daisy and saying, “God loves me, God loves me not”.
I imagined that God did love me on my better days, but was otherwise pretty ticked off with me. Which meant I would try harder and harder, but wasn’t sure how much longer I could last. Then I began to know “the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge”. I began to understand that God loved me in ways beyond human knowing. In fact, God’s love for you and me even called for another word to describe it.
The most common word for love in Jesus and His apostles’ world was the Greek, eros. Eros had two principal characteristics: it was love of the worthy, and a love that desired to possess. (See New Testament scholar Leon Morris, Testaments of Love) Now, twenty centuries later it’s still eros that makes the world goes round. A man meets a woman and finds her beautiful and desirable. In time he discovers that she is also possessed of great inner beauty and strength. So he tells her that he loves her; i.e. he finds her worthy and desires to possess her. He has eros for her.
It is significant that in the New Testament the Holy Spirit forbade use of the word eros. Eros is never used to define and declare the Gospel of God’s love. God’s love called for another word to encompass “the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge”. The New Testament writers found that word in agape. Agape was seldom used in secular Greek, but the New Testament took it over and expanded its meaning in radical ways.
Whereas eros is a love of the worthy and a desire to possess, “agape is in contrast at both points: It is not a love of the worthy, and it is not a love that desires to possess. On the contrary, it is a love quite irrespective of merit, and it is a love that seeks to give.” (Leon Morris, Testaments of Love). Thus, agape is frequently translated as “unconditional love”. God loves you no matter what! The One who loves you needs nothing from you! God loves you not to possess you, but to give to you. Eros thirsts, agape overflows!
God simply loves you! He just does! He can’t help Himself! There’s no, “He loves me; He loves me not”, with God. Because “God is love” (1 John 4:16), He can do nothing but love you. Agape, self-giving, unconditional love is not merely one of God’s attributes, but His essence, His very nature. God does not have to try to love you, or maintain love for you. Love is His very substance. His love for you originates in who He is, not in who you are. His love is not human love taken to a higher degree, the ultimate eros. God is agape love.
Overflowing love. Sacrificial love that does not seek to possess, but only to give and to sacrifice, even death on the Cross.
Now, years later, I sometimes I think “He loves me; He loves me not”. I sometimes still project onto God my own thoughts and feelings about myself. But more and more, with the Spirit’s help, I live in the wonderful freedom of knowing that God loves me, and that He always will. I hope you know it too!
Grace and peace, and agape,