What is Salvation? Love
14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. 16 I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, 17 and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. 18 I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
To be loved is what we want more than anything else in this world. To be loved. It is a longing placed inside each one of us, at our very core, our very heart, our very being. Out of everything about us that is made in God’s image, the desire for love is what makes us mirror God most closely. It is the most human and most divine part of us. And that desire for love is universal. It transcends religion. It transcends age. It transcends language and nationality. It transcends wealth and power and fame. We all are searching for love.
But we seek love in all the wrong places. We believe that we will be loved if only we have a more beautiful face or more fit body. We believe we will be loved if only we win more games, accomplish more tasks, move higher up the ranks of our work. We will be loved once we are famous, once we are popular, once we are rich and powerful. We will believe we will be loved once we have earned it, once we have finally done enough of what people want from us, once we have spoken the best speech, written the greatest book, once we get the applause and adoration.
But we know from experience that none of those lead to love.
Because love isn’t something we can earn. Love isn’t something we can win. It’s not a trophy. It’s not a ribbon. It’s not a bank account. Love is something else entirely.
Love is a gift.
It is a gift that makes no sense. It is a gift that doesn’t follow reason or rationality. It is a gift that is impossible to describe. But it is a gift that connects hearts to hearts, souls to souls, beings to beings. It connects those of us who are weird and complicated, those of us who are introverts and extroverts, those of us who hide, and those of us who talk too much. Love somehow connects us, and in that connection brings joy more wonderful than we can ever put into words.
The first time I met God’s love was at a summer camp. Throughout the week, God had been trying to show me that love in every way possible: in conversations with friends, in songs and worship, in the words of Jesus, in laughter and food fights, and soccer games, in leaves blowing in the wind, and birds singing out each morning. God kept pulling back the curtain more and more and more, ready for the full reveal.
On the one afternoon of camp, we were swimming in the lake, throwing footballs around, tackling each other, jumping onto the gigantic blob, flinging each other halfway to the sky and back. And as my body couldn’t take one more big flop into the water, I decided to get away for a moment. I got into a kayak and paddled to the other side of the lake. And in that moment, God finally got me to see how much I was loved.
On the right hand side of the lake, the water almost stopped. The crowd and everyone else was behind me. And something invited me to stop paddling, take my oar out of the water, and close my eyes. And then something said to me, just listen. And as I did, a voice said to me, “I love you. Just who you are, Alex, I love you.”
Twenty years later, I still can’t put into words what that moment has meant for me. For the weeks after, I couldn’t stop smiling. For the first time that week, I enjoyed singing. As I went home, I couldn’t stop talking about God and reading and learning and seeing the message of love everywhere I went. I can’t describe what I felt, what was going on inside of me, more than this: it changed everything.
I knew on that day on the lake, I didn’t have to convince God to love me. I didn’t have to pay God for it. I didn’t have to earn it or win it or beat someone else to it. The hardest part was never getting God to love me. The hardest part was realizing I could be loved by God.
For those of you here today, maybe you know that you are loved by God. Or maybe you have been told it many, many times, but find it too hard to believe it’s really for you. Or maybe those voices of the world have crowded out the message completely and said love will only come once you are rich enough, once you are famous enough, once you are handsome or beautiful enough, once you have made yourself worthy enough to be loved. Or maybe you are like me and go through times where all three are true in your life.
Whatever the case, I know this: Nothing can keep God from loving us. No sin, no mistake, no voice, no message, no power on earth or heaven or hell can ever separate us from the love of God through Christ Jesus, our Savior. God gave everything, just so that we will know, “You are beloved. You are worthy of God’s love.”
Love is not something we earn, but instead something we get for absolutely free. And then we get to pass it on, absolutely free.
In his book, “Searching for God Knows What,” author Donald Miller writes,
“Imagine how much our lives would be changed if we trusted that we were truly loved by God? We would interact with the poor and not show any partiality. We would love our spouses easily, not expecting them to have to redeem us. We would be slow to anger because redemption is no longer at stake. We would be wise and giving with money because money no longer represented points. We would give up formulaic religion because we would know that checking off a spiritual to-do list is a worthless pursuit. We would have confidence and the ability to laugh at ourselves. And we could love people without expecting anything back in return. It would be quite beautiful, really.
This world would be a beautiful place. So my prayer for you this week is the same as Paul’s prayer for all of us:
I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
God loves you. Receive it. Know it. And pass it on. Amen