“All You Need is Love” — Eph. 3:14-19
By Dr. Jim McConnell
In 1967 the Beatles released their “Magical Mystery Tour” album. One of the songs on that album was “All You Need is Love.” Folks of my generation know this song well; the refrain, which is the song’s title, is repeated over and over (and over). There is a line in the song, though, that at least to me was until recently not as familiar. It goes, “Nothing you can do, but you can learn how to be you in time.” Despite all the times I have listened to this song that came as a surprise to me.
In this prayer in Ephesians 3, we hear Paul praying that we might grasp what we cannot grasp, namely the “the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.” When I hear this, I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes; the theologian Karl Barth wrote, “Grace is only grace when one recognizes that it is beyond comprehension.” God’s love, demonstrated for us in the death of Jesus on our behalf, is so wide, long, tall, and deep that we cannot understand it. We can’t because we have no exact equivalent in the fallen world in which we live. While some love relationships come close (husband/wife; parent/child; sibling/sibling), none equals the love that God lavishes on us in Christ. This is the reason Paul’s prayer is so important. We must try to wrap our hearts around the “breadth and length and height and depth” of Christ’s love for all people. If we are content with equating God’s love to the human love we experience, we will fail to understand God’s perfect love.
There is a second reason that Paul’s prayer is so important. In the conclusion to this passage, Paul prays for his readers that they would know the unknowable love of God “so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” Receiving love is a basic human need, perhaps the greatest of all human needs. We have that need because we have been created in the image and likeness of our creator. God has instilled in us the desire both to love and to receive love. When we are not receiving love, we are not living into the image in which God created us. I am certainly not a licensed counselor or therapist (just ask my students), but it is my experience that a person who is not receiving love is prone to much suffering, and this is not God’s intention for creation. As the Beatles sang, “All you need is love” and “you can learn how to be you in time.” Being “you” means being a beloved child of a loving, heavenly, creator God.
Prayer: Loving God, enable us to try to wrap our finite minds around your infinite love for us and for all people. May we receive your love, and be a source of your love to others, we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.