“Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knows us not, because it knew Him not.” 1 John 3:1
It’s 4:30 in the morning and I’m up and searching. I am thinking so heavily about the love of God that I just want to understand the intensity of His love for each of us and all of us. I want to know it more and more every day. I don’t just want to know it academically or theologically or doctrinally. I want to know it experientally and intuitively. And then I want that to be strengthened by what I continue to learn each and every day.
All I know is that Your love, Oh, Lord, is life. Your love is so uncontainable yet You allow Your children to begin to contain it, even in our ever so fragile vessels. It’s so overwhelming and yet we are not overwhelmed as You reveal Yourself through Your love as we are able to receive it. I don’t just think, but I know, should You reveal the whole depth of Your love and compassion in one total moment to me now as I am, I would be left undone and fall apart. The greatest and most intense love on earth would be no match for the experience of Your full love should You remove Your hand from before our face.
In Psalms, the word Selah is used to say, “stop and think about this.” Here, John says, “Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us…” “Behold,” “stop and look.” And that “what manner” is something else in itself. “Potapen agapen”- what manner of love. But what makes me really stop and think obout the intensity of John’s words here is that this verb/expression is used in another place in Scripture. It’s used in Matthew 8:27.
Here You were, Jesus. Teaching Your disciples, healing and casting out demons. And You see this great multitude of people gathering about You. So You gave commandment to leave for the other side of the lake. Well, come on now, how loving is that response? Guess I have to stop and behold it from Your perspective for a little bit to figure that out.
And I know it wasn’t just Your twelve disciples that heard that command because a particular scribe comes up to You, and says he’ll follow You wherever You go, I suppose even to the other side of the lake. But You don’t tell him, “Great, come with me.” You tell him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but I don’t have a home to lay my head.” I wonder if that’s like saying, “Are you really ready to be my disciple and identify fully with Me and My ways? It’s a full package deal.”
And then another approaches with the request to follow after he “buries” his father first. This disciple is asking for a temporary hiatus from following You to follow family commitments instead of You. If his dad were dead he wouldn’t even be by Your side because he would already be sitting shiva. You answer, “Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead.” “Follow Me, and fulfill ritual when it comes. Don’t turn from me to wait for the future. Walk with me into the future.”
See, these two where disciples. They were the real deal. But they were missing something. They were missing the reality of the experience of the love of God in thier own lives. They were following a theology, an intellectually great doctrine. But they didn’t really know the One they were following.
But there were disciples who climbed into the boat with You. You were their priority. They left their comfort and families behind to know You and Your ways. And here they were in the middle of the water on this ship with You sleeping peacefully while a great storm rose around them. Here the ship was covered with waves but You were as peaceful in rest as ever. So why would the disciples come to You and wake You? Why would these seasoned seafarers wake up a carpenter to save them at sea? “Lord, save us: we perish!”
What do You really mean when You say things? Do I too often take for granted that You only mean what I so clearly see at first? “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” Was this a rebuke for the moment only? What is it that they really didn’t understand? I mean, something intuitively drove them to come to You for their only help. Is that total faithlessness? Or were You rebuking a spirit or habit of faithlessness? Was it a faithlessness that had already been demonstrated in two of the disciples before the storm, but maybe there were other similar struggles amongst the others on the boat? Maybe the storm was just to point back at the hearts and the priorities and the place of You in them.
“Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” And then You rose up and rebuked the winds and the waves; and immediately there was great calm. And the men marvelled. They were in wonder. What had they expected? Hadn’t they come to You? What were they expecting? They had never seen anything like this before. No other prophet had so immediately done such a miracle. This was unlike anything that any man could do. “Potapos estin outos? “ Their remark, “What kind is this?” What in the world were You? Definitely no man. You were something other.
Which brings me back to Your love. “Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us…” See, the love of God is like no other. There is no other love in heaven or on earth that is deeper, higher, wider, greater, or more intense than Your love. There is no other kind like this. Your love is unlike what we can do on our own. But this love that is so far greater than ours is open for our experience. And we only receive that experience of Your love through an intimate relationship with You. And relationships require absolute commitment. So what kind of disciple am I? Am I the kind that will only commit if the way is paved with roses? Am I the kind that will only commit after I complete my bucket list of family and life commitments? Or am I the kind of disciple that absolutely clings to the God that desires a relationship with measly little me and makes me Your very own treasure and heir with Christ? What kind of love is this? Love that ought to be unfathomable, but love that You invite us to fathom in unity with You by the sacrifice and resurrection of Your Son and the power of Your Holy Spirit within us as You shed this unworldly love abroad in the hearts and lives of Your committed children that cling ever so lovingly back to You because You alone are worth it all.