Saturday, February 14, 2009

Love Abounding

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight . . . (Philippians 1:9).

I’ve been gaining insight into my wife for almost thirteen years. I’ve learned much. I have much to learn. But from time to time I realize that what I’m learning is a variation on a lesson I glimpsed early in our relationship, the Christmas before we married.

Marnie had gotten a Christmas tree for her apartment. I’m not exaggerating when I say that this thing could have gone on the White House lawn or in front of Rockefeller Plaza. It was massive, consuming most of the floor space and forcing her to move furniture in her apartment. The size of the tree got my attention. But what I found most revealing about it was the fact that she had purchased it, brought it home, and put it up all by herself.

She was on a mission. She put her mind to it and made it happen. I’ve seen that same story played out over and over again. My insight deepens, and so does my gratitude. God knew exactly who I needed in my life.

As Paul prays for the church in Philippi he prays that their love will abound more and more. I like that. This isn’t a prayer that asks for help putting up with each other; it’s not a prayer for strength to gut it out and hang on. Paul isn’t settling for that, and neither should we. The language he uses suggests abundance, an overflow.

But this abounding love has shape and definition. This love abounds in knowledge and depth of insight. Knowledge and insight can do funny things to love. Sometimes the more we know about a person, the harder it is to love them. Sometimes knowledge deepens love. Most of the time, the kind of love that truly grows and abounds is the kind that gains knowledge and depth of insight, and loves anyway.

Paul likely meant that as knowledge of Christ and insight into who Christ is increases, our love will abound accordingly. That makes sense. You can’t grow in your knowledge of Jesus and be stingy with love. If that’s happening there’s probably no true knowledge and insight into who Jesus is to begin with.

But more than the abounding love, more than the increasing knowledge and depth of insight, I am struck by the sheer fact that Paul prays.

Apart from prayer we won’t love as we should. Love isn’t something we conjure up by trying hard; love isn’t something that comes naturally to us when another person is lovable. Good intentions aren’t much help.

Love is a gift. God gives the gift to us and teaches us how to love. Our role is to ask. We pray. Try it this weekend. Pray for the one you love and pray for the love you share – that it might overflow in abundance; that you’ll have knowledge and insight into who that person is, and who Jesus is. Pray that the Holy Spirit would create the kind of love God wants you to experience: Love abounding more and more.

Loving God, we pray Paul’s words as our own. Give us love that abounds more and more, love that grows with increasing knowledge and depth of insight into who you are. Help us to know you better that we might love as we should, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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