"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:14

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Abounding Love

I like words. When studying languages, I enjoy learning about the origins of words. This helps me with learning the words and gives me a deeper understanding of them. In every culture, language changes over time. Words, like everything else, come in and out of style.

Abound is a funny word. When was the last time you heard someone use it in a conversation? You are more likely to see it on the cover of a romance novel than to hear someone talk about how they wish their crops, business or church might abound. However, Paul uses it to bless the Philippian church in Chapter One of his letter to them:

“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight…” (vs.9)

Abounding may be easier to grasp if we think of Jesus declaration of his own mission when he said he came that we might have abundant life. Abundant is excessive, more than enough and overflowing. So the idea Paul conveys here is that he prays for the church in Philippi that their love may be extravagant, spilling over on one another and all they encounter. They are not the source of such love, but it comes through Jesus Christ (vs. 11). I am reminded of Jesus metaphor in John 15, where he explains that he is the vine and we are the branches. If we remain in him, he promises, we will bear much fruit. The secret of abundant fruit is an abiding relationship with Jesus.

When I first discovered verse 9 (above) I remember being a little surprised by the phrases that go on to describe this abounding love. Paul does not here emphasize warm fuzzy emotions (though he has expressed his own in verses 7-8). Rather, he describes a love deeply rooted in knowledge and depth of insight. The reason this surprises us today is that we think of emotions and knowledge as separate tracks frequently arriving at very different destinations. Paul here is teaching that the tracks to agape love are nailed into the beams of full knowledge (epignosis) and deep insight.

If our love is emotion based, it is about as permanent as morning dew. When exposed to the light of day (disappointment, conflict and hurts) it vanishes. But when it is rooted in what we know to be true, and we have opened our hearts to the instruction and challenge of the Spirit, love endures. One does not have to read between the lines here to see once more the principles of grace and truth, and speaking truth in love. If it’s all about grace and love, we have missed half of the gospel. If it’s all about truth and knowledge, we become full of ourselves and overlook the importance of love and grace (our only hope). True knowledge coupled with Spirit inspired depth of insight will root our love into something far more permanent than our feelings.

When I think about it, this is how God loves us. Our daily stumbling, our fickle feelings, and our occasional straying from the path do not surprise him. He has already made his commitment to those who receive his Son. He will never leave them or forsake them. So, his love is steadfast, longsuffering, enduring. Jesus parting prayer with the disciples on the night of his betrayal was that we would love one another as he and the Father love. Big shoes to fill. Fortunately, we do not have to muster this love from our self-centered human hearts, but it flows through us from him. The question to consider today might be:

What am I doing to increase my knowledge and insight so that the love of Christ may abound in me?

Paul’s prayer does not call for an apathetic response. God did not design the body of Christ (his church) to be passive. Let’s be diligent to dig into his Word, asking the Holy Spirit to enlighten us, seeking Godly counsel and instruction so that our love may abound, being deeply rooted in full knowledge and deep insight. That is my prayer for all of us.

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