Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints,
The Ephesian Church set a very high standard for us all, a standard that if we are honest tends to be lacking, especially in the Western Church. That standard was their love for all the saints. We may well say “I love all the saints!” To which we may well examine our own confidence – do we love those saints around the world? Do we love the saints from different cultures, backgrounds and ethnicity? Do we love the saints who hold different persuasions from ourselves? Do we love the saints from different expressions of Church? Do we love the saints who worship in other fellowships in our locality? To all these questions we may well respond with confidence that we do, and that though we do not know all these saints, or have met them, that we are confident that we would extend love and grace to all of them given the opportunity. But what about the saints that we do know? What about the saints in our own fellowships or even our own families? Can we say that we love them with the same confidence?
This is the true test of our love. It is fine for us to say that we love those of whom we hardly know or have little contact with. It is almost akin to some celebrity saying to a watching world, “I love you all,” or as glib as the bland motto that was expected from Sandra Bullock’s character in Miss Congeniality “I want world peace!” However let’s be honest, it is much harder to consistently show love to those we know, even to those we spend a lot of time with.
Now there is a very simple reason as to why we would find it easier to love those we don’t know as opposed to those we do – we never have the opportunity to be personally offended by people, even saints, that we don’t know! Therefore there isn’t the opportunity for us to show the grace, mercy and forgiveness that inevitably becomes necessary to extend towards the people that we do know, that we do spend time with! These virtues are after all the basic ingredients of all true love! This also why the New Testament is full of encouragements to the saints of those 1st Century fellowships to bear with each other and forgive each other. Their challenge was exactly the same as ours.
We can choose our friends but not our family. This is especially true of the Church. We didn’t choose God, God chose us. In like manner we didn’t choose the saints in our fellowship God chose them and placed them there, especially for us to get to know!
What makes the punch of this verse even more intense is that the word used to describe the love in this verse is none other than that beautiful yet frustrating NT Greek word agape. Beautiful, because it reflects God’s loves for us. Frustrating, because if you are anything like me, and unless you are from another planet or dimension, I suspect that you probably are almost exactly like me, we know how truly hard it is to love in such a way!
Agape love is that unmerited, favoured love which is based on our position and not our performance. Because of our position in Christ, we are loved my God. In 1 John 4 the apostle John kind of nails it on the head for us, If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also. The only possible way to love like this is do so on the basis of commitment not feelings. Christ is our perfect example in this. He never felt like going to the CROSS. In fact in the Garden of Gethsemane He asked His Father to remove the cup that He was about to bear, but because of His commitment to His own creation, Christ yielded to the Divine plan and pursued the CROSS. Our own commitment to Christ is our own expression of our love for Him. Our commitment to each other then, despite the fact that we may occasionally have tension with another believer, is our expression of our love for all the saints. So, if we are to live up to the Ephesian standard of love, let us start with those we know and love!
OUR PRAYER TODAY
Heavenly Father, thank you for Your love for all the saints. Help us to follow this Ephesian model and to have a sincere love for all the saints. Help us LORD to make a fresh commitment to love those saints that we know, those that we spend time with, even those who have or may offend us in the future. May Your Holy Spirit enable us to show and extend grace, mercy and forgiveness to all the saints.