Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Broader than as the Sea

My favorite beach shot! Taken in 1997.
I love everything about beaches. Even though as a child I grew up in the mountains of Papua New Guinea and played in streams and rivers, I was introduced to the ocean when first a missionary in Indonesia. Later I discovered other beauties such as St Lucia, Montenegro, Assateague Island and most recently the Mediterranean Sea off the southern coast of Turkey.

South Lombok, Indonesia has a beach where the sand is actually perfectly round pellets of coral. Last year in Montenegro, I discovered sand made up of smooth rocks. Some beaches are covered in shells, some in sea glass. Some are good for wading, some for wave surfing, some for snorkeling. 

Then there's the colors! Some seas are aqua, some deep blue. The light dancing on the waves produces further shades and the foam of crashing waves adds white. And don't even get me started on the sounds of the waves, the wind, the gulls! There is something about the beauty of a beach that lulls me to a place of silence and rest.

Thus you can imagine my excitement when I discovered that beaches illustrate love! I was in another slump. I needed a fresh reminder (again!) that God loves me. I took some time to sit at Jesus' feet (following Mary's example) and read this from the Apostle Paul: 
I pray that you may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth [of God's love]. Ephesians 3:18
The same word "breadth" to also used to describe King Solomon's wisdom: the breadth of his understanding was as infinite as the sand on the seashore (1 Kings 4:29).

The sands of South Lombok, Indonesia
Is it ok then, to say that the breadth of God's love is as infinite as the sand on the seashore? This means that his love is extending indefinitely, it has no limit, it is measureless. I find this concept also in Psalm 139:17-18:
How difficult it is for me to fathom your thoughts about me, O God! How vast is their sum total! If I tried to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. Even if I finished counting them, I would still have to contend with you.
Since God himself is infinite, that would of course mean his love is infinite too. It helps me to look at the grains of sand and think that just as I cannot begin to count them, I cannot begin to count the ways that God loves me, that nothing I do will ever stop his love.

From the ocean, I also learn that God's love is as wide as the east is from the west. Psalm 103:12 says as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. God's love is so wide, that it covers all my sin. He demonstrated his love for me by dying on the cross to take the punishment for my sin. His love covered the sins of my past, present and future. Scripture says that sometimes someone will die for a righteous man, but only Christ died for sinful men and women. God loves me that much! I am completely forgiven! When I stand on the shore and gaze out at the ocean, I cannot see where it ends and I cannot see what is beneath the waves. Just as I cannot see the end of the sea, I cannot see the end of God's saving love.

If I were to follow the ocean, it would take me to another shore, another country, another people. God's love is so inclusive it encompasses ALL people and extends even towards those I struggle to love. I have the tendency to want to stick with my kind, to not welcome people different than me. But God said that all may enter who believe. God's love is wide enough to include every person. God's love is so far reaching, it will save many, many more than I would save for he loves the world (John 3:16, I John 2:2).

In Genesis 18:18, God told Abraham that his descendants would bless many nations. We see him extending his love to an Egyptian slave, a Canaanite prostitute, a Philistine alien, an Army Commander from Aram, the leper Namaan and Ninevites in Iraq. In the Gospels, Jesus tells his disciples to "Go out to the highways and country roads and urge people to come in, so that my house will be filled" (Luke 14:23). The Apostle Paul taught that salvation has been extended to the Gentiles along with the chosen Jews (Ephesians 3:6). We know that some from every tongue and tribe will be in heaven some day.
"...you would think from hearing [some] preach that Christ came into the world to save half-a-dozen, and that they were five of them … Out on their narrowness! There will be more in heaven than we expect to see there by a long way; and there will be some there with whom we had very little comfortable fellowship on earth who had fellowship with Christ, and who are therefore taken to dwell with him for ever." (Spurgeon)
What aspect of the breadth of God's love - that it is measureless, that it covers all your sin, that it encompasses all people - ministers to you most? Why? 

Other entries in this series:
With All the Saints
Rooted and Grounded
More and More at Home
Unlimited Resources
Named by God
Let us Kneel 

No comments:

Post a Comment