What’s the recipe for real love?

Some say it’s love at first sight: “I saw her walking across the room, and in that instant I knew she was the one.” Others say love is a choice we make: “I love you today, at your best, and I’ll choose to love you tomorrow, even when you’re at your worst… when you’re not handsome anymore, when you disappoint me, when you make me sad. I’ll choose to love you even then.”

1 John 4:16 says this:  “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.” God’s love for us—love in its purest, realest form—is self-sacrifice. It’s Jesus choosing death to give us life. What would motivate anyone to choose this? His choice to love us “surpasses knowledge” (Ephesians 3:19). Real love is really hard to understand. And it’s incredibly hard to accept or give what you don’t understand. It’s going to take power beyond what we possess and faith greater than what we can muster on our own.

Paul prayed for the Ephesian church to be empowered to know this “unknowable” love.

It’s a prayer with power for us today, found in God’s Word, and totally aligned with God’s perfect will— His desire for us to know Him and love Him. “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).

Paul prays that we would know God’s love in all of its dimensions.

How wide – God’s love is expansive, reaching to all. Whether you’re sitting in a slum or on a king’s throne, God is reaching out to you in love to draw you near. “Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die,” Paul writes. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:7-8).

How long – God’s love goes the distance. No matter how far away from God you feel, His love has more endurance than your emotions, outrunning them to reach you. The prophet Isaiah shares the cry of God’s heart for us: “You will be called Sought After” (Isaiah 62:12). And Jesus confirms this truth with the parable of the Prodigal Son, a story reflecting God’s love for us despite all distance: “But while he [the son] was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him” (Luke. 15:20). Even when you feel you’ve wandered far from God or His plans for you, no distance of time or space is too great to keep Him from pursuing you.

How high – God’s love uplifts. He reaches down to those who feel low—the poor in spirit, the ones struggling to love themselves let alone accept God’s love. He reaches down and He lifts us up. (See Ephesians 2:4-6.) David sings a song of praise celebrating this transformative love: “He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand” (Psalm 40:2).

How deep – His love reaches into our depths, the deepest parts of our hearts (even those parts we try to hide), and our deepest needs for Him. “You have searched me, Lord, and you know me,” David says. (See Psalm 139:1-6,17- 18.) The One who created us knows us and loves us intimately. He reached down deep in love—sending His Son, Jesus, to dwell among us that we would know Him. And He’s continually reaching down, through His Spirit dwelling in us today, empowering us to know Him and experience His love fully.

Paul prayed with a confident conviction.

This recipe for real love is fail-proof: “Neither height nor depth [that is, no dimension of the world we live in], nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39). It’s a perfect recipe for real love, fully dimensional to reach into every part of our hearts craving love, all-encompassing to embrace us wherever we are.

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