When Maple and I got married, we picked as our wedding verse 1 John 4:19, ‘We love because he first loved us.’
This pithy but sublime verse captures the overwhelming sense we had that our love story was subsumed within a much larger one, from which we were gifted and extended succor and mettle for all our life together. ‘His love will be the glue in this marriage,’ I said in my wedding speech. Indeed, we owe Him all our lives.
Our God is a God who loves, since He is love (1 John 4:8). It forms the very ‘fabric’ of His character and work. It underlines and crowns His every purpose and plan. Scripture reveals then that we are the primary objects and receptors of His love in creation and redemption. And so we are enjoined: ‘Give thanks to the Lord; His steadfast love endures forever.’ (Psalm 107:1).
Love is also raison d’être He has commanded us to live by (see Matthew 22:37-40). It is the reason that we are sent into the world to represent Him and proclaim His kingdom come, in Christ.
During the recent NAMS Global Leaders gathering, I shared with the leaders and Companions present a portion of Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3:24-19 when he prays specifically that the Ephesians might comprehend with all saints the ‘breadth and length and height and depth’ of the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge.
As I reflected on these four definitive nouns that attempted to make concrete the overwhelming and frankly, eternally immeasurable (thus ‘surpassing’) nature of God’s love for us, I began to see that these same measures could also be overlaid over the final command that Jesus gave us in Matthew 28:18-20 – that compelling job-description for His faithful church. It helped me see that even here, God’s love was paramount.
Firstly, the breadth of God’s love is wide enough to include all peoples. Matthew 28:19 calls us to make disciples of ‘all peoples’. His Gospel work comprehensively includes all nations everywhere and so His mission call to us is to go both next door and to the ends of the earth with that good news. Did not Jesus say that because God loved the world, He sent His son to save it? The breadth of God’s love is for everyone.
Secondly, as Jesus makes clear in Matthew 18:20, the length of God’s love towards a sinful world is extended for all time and history – as long as it is possible for lost people to be reached and to come home to Him (see 2 Peter 3:8-9). This same love will endure in His people forever so that we will never get to the end of it.
Thirdly, the height of God’s love extends as high as the heavens where God sits enthroned, to the earth where we are. Simply put, Jesus is Lord (Matthew 28:18). No other name is greater, no other authority is higher, no other love will suffice. Therefore, we can make disciples in all the places He sends us.
Finally, the depth of God’s love is seen and demonstrated in the incarnation and passion of Jesus, when He came down to earth, and was driven deep into dark and hell with the weight of our sins on Him (see Romans 5:8; 2 Corinthians 5:21).
But Matthew 28:19 further calls us as disciples of that same Risen Christ to make other disciples.
When Jesus tells the story of two builders in Luke 6:47-49 to contrast obedient and disobedient hearers of His words, he describes the wise and obedient one as one who ‘dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock.’
True genuine love that results in life-long discipleship will is a call to dig-down deep into Christ, our rock. ‘The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people.’ (Richard Foster).
Discipleship is itself a call to go deep into our love for God and people so that we can go far and wide with and for Him.
Oh, the breadth, length, height and depth of God’s love that saves us and sends us out on mission with Him! May you and I not only know and revel in this love but purposefully make it known to others.