The Power of Love
Updated: Nov 18
"The Power of Love"
At time, it’s easy to allow ourselves to believe that things are falling apart in our world. From protests, violence and riots, to the pandemic... uncertainty about the future seems to be at an all time high. Divisions are being emphasized. Instead of our differences making us unique, and interesting - differences are viewed with suspicion and condescension. Differing views - especially political views - are now grounds for breaking relationships. Believe just like me, or I’m gone!
It seems that everything good and decent is being abandoned. And things that are vile and hateful are being lifted up.
In some places in our world - like China, France and the Middle East - Christians are being persecuted and martyred. In others, they’ve been relegated to irrelevancy... mainly because the church has become such a part of the worldly system that you can’t tell “Christians” from anyone else.
So what can we do? How can we bring peace to a world that’s so anxious? How can we preach love to a world that seems consumed by hate? How do we teach righteousness to a world that seems blinded by self-righteousness?
It seems a lost cause. It seems that true righteousness has lost. The Church seems so weak in light of the world's troubles.
What can we do to make this world different? To be the “salt and light” Christ calls us to be?
I believe the scripture we read from Ephesians addresses this issue. The Ephesians thought their world was falling apart, too. The Apostle Paul, the one who had brought the Good News of Christ to Ephesus, and established the church at Ephesus, was in prison. Things did not look good for him, in fact, they were not good. He had been in prison for years and it seemed he would never get out to resume his ministry of spreading the Gospel. According to tradition Paul was eventually beheaded... executed because of his faith.
So, it surely seemed to the Christians in Ephesus that the powers of evil had the upper hand. So Paul - despite being in jail - despite not knowing what the future held for him personally - wrote a letter to the Ephesians; a letter of hope and encouragement.
Of course, part of Paul’s letter is a prayer; a prayer for the Ephesians, no doubt... but it’s also a prayer for us. In fact, I took a “spiritual formation” class back in seminary that focused the entire semester long course around this prayer.
Paul’s prayer was intended to help those facing challenges and uncertainty. And Christians through the ages... have turned to Paul’s prayer when facing the troubles of this world. It’s a prayer, asking God to show his people the true power they’ve been given.
Paul bows before God. Of course, for us, that’s not a unusual concept. We speak of being earnest in prayer as “falling on our knees.” We are used to this as being a traditional posture for prayer.
But in Judaism (at the time of Paul especially, but even today) the more traditional posture... is standing looking up - often with arms held open.
Which makes sense... I mean, God is in heaven not in your hands.
But here Paul specifically says he’s kneeling before God. Kneeling is the posture of one who’s coming before God humbly in supplication. It’s the posture of one who is begging for something.
Paul was pleading for the well being of the church in Ephesus. He was asking God to help the church, to give the church strength. He was making humble supplication on their behalf; praying for them in their hour of need.
As a pastor who prays for the church regularly, I can understand this. I have always believed that a pastor's job is not just to teach, preach, counsel, and administer but first and foremost to pray for the church.
I heard a story once about a preacher who was known for wearing out the tops of the toes of his shoes before the heels or soles. He spent so much time kneeling in prayer that the toes of his shoes would rub against the floor and be worn out.
I’ve never worn out the top of my shoes first... maybe I should. But it’s my desire to be that kind of pastor.
Paul, I imagine, was that kind of pastor. But what was he specifically praying? What’s the point?
First of all he says that he is bowing his knee "before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named."(vs. 15) Paul was reminding the Ephesians that God is the Father of all... every man, woman and child... whether they recognize it, or accept it, or not... which is a challenging truth at times...
Because... even our enemies are our brothers and sisters. Even people with differing political views and who vote for different parties are our brothers and sisters. Even those who’d imprisoning Paul and those who would eventually behead him were people loved by God. Even the people persecuting Christians and killing them in our world are children of God by creation. Even terrorists who murder innocent children are people loved by God and for whom Christ suffered and died on the cross, for them, too!. Does Christ approve of every choice by every group or individual? NO... but he loves them, and calls us to follow him.
It is important that we remember that. Especially in this day of vilification... and division... and hate.
We should never allow the evil of the world to drive us to hate. We are called to speak the truth in love... to resist sin, but to love people.
The fact is we never look into the eyes of anyone God does not love.
Jesus gave us the ultimate example of love when he prayed for the forgiveness of the very people crucifying him. We can hate the acts of evil and hatred in our world, but we must love people.
This is the point from which the rest of Paul's prayer takes off. He prays to God that the Ephesians may be strengthened through Christ so that they be grounded in love and know the love of Christ. This is the power that sustained the church in those early years: the love of God. When we accept Christ, God gives us his Holy Spirit and one of the essential gifts the Spirit gives us is Love. That love will strengthen us. It will enable us to strive and persevere against the evil of this world. Not because we hate the world, but because we love it and want to see it reflect the Kingdom of God.
I know sometimes things seem bleak. It seems at times that all the good in the world is gone. But that is exactly how it must have appeared to the Ephesians.
And when Paul was gone, the church not only survived! It grew! It went from being a tiny group of believers to being the religion of a third of the world's population.
That is the power of God... That’s the power of Prayer... That’s the power of Love.
So I pray today that you (& I) would know this power. That you would be aware of the gift that the Holy Spirit has already put within you; the power not to tear down, but to build up, the power of the Love of God exemplified by the sacrifice of Christ and given by the Holy Spirit. And that rooted... and grounded in that very love, you may know the extent of God's love - and in knowing - you’ll be filled with the presence of God!
That presence, changes the world... because it changes us!