Love makes the beloved see beauty within himself.
Love makes the beloved see beauty within himself.
I wish I could say that these were my words of wisdom, or a grand epiphany that I had, but they are not. They are the words of a priest in the Church of England, a Father Bill Scott, who passed away just last year.
Love makes the beloved see beauty within himself. When someone loves you, when you experience that love, you are reminded that you are in fact lovable. Despite all the evidence to the contrary; despite your failures and your sins, and your bad habits, and all those bits of yourself, whether they are moral, mental or physical that you consider to be unattractive, despite all of that, here is evidence that there is beauty within you, because somebody else sees it. Someone else can help you see beauty within yourself that you don’t see, and it is a miraculous thing.
This doesn’t just happen in romantic relationships. All loving relationships do this. Mother or Father to Child. Friend to friend. It can even happen between strangers on the street. When someone loves you, and shows you love, one of the first things that changes, is how you see yourself. And that can change your entire world. This happens in our relationships with one another, but think about when it happens in our relationship with God. What happens to us when we realize that we are beloved of God?
That really is Paul’s challenge to the Church in Ephesus in the epistle this morning. Paul wants these Christians to know, really know, the power of Christ’s love because that is going to change how they see themselves and it turn it will also change how they see everyone else in the world.
“I pray,” he says “that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
Knowing the love of Christ is not just an intellectual exercise. It is an experience. I don’t think that Paul means “comprehend” in the sense that you understand exactly how God’s love works, or how love works in general. I think Paul uses “comprehend” to mean knowing that you don’t know. Knowing that there is a reality here that “surpasses knowledge” as he says. We can’t really know how big the universe is, but we can look up at the night sky in awe and wonder at the vastness of it. We can experience the limitlessness of it. It is one thing to say that the universe is big, but it is another thing to look up at the stars. Paul wants people to approach Christ’s love with mystery and wonder. Because this love, doesn’t just say something about the God that we worship; this love says something about us too. Despite all of our flaws and failures, God still sees something in us that is loveable and beautiful and worth saving. Worth dying for in fact.
Experiencing that love MUST change us. How could it not?
We have not earned God’s love. The scriptures make it very clear that God’s love for us was there right from the very beginning. God’s love is WHY we exist. It was God’s love that created us in the first place. And it was God’s love that saved us through Jesus Christ. Paul says earlier in Ephesians:
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not the result of works.”
In other words, God has a love for you that has nothing to do with your own sense or worthiness or accomplishment, or for that matter, your own sense of unworthiness or sinfulness or failure. Paul is praying for these Christians to really know and experience that love, because if they do, that should change everything for them. Not only how they see themselves, but also how they see other people.
If Christ loves me so much that he was willing to die for me, then there must be something within me that is, in fact, loveable. There must be something beautiful, even if I sometimes have trouble seeing it. And if I believe that Christ loves you so much that he was willing to die for you, then something within you must also, in fact, be loveable. There must be beauty within you, even if I sometimes have trouble seeing it. God’s love challenges us to see beauty where it is sometimes hard to find.
Immediately after the verses from Paul’s letter that you heard this morning, Paul goes on to say that “I beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called.” If we actually believe what we say about God’s love to be true, then that should invite a response from us. We didn’t earn this love of God, but we may certainly respond to it. Part of this response that Paul lays out in his letter is learning to love and respect each other as the beloved of God. We are challenged by God’s love to see beauty within ourselves, and to see beauty within each other.
When we talk about love, we are not talking about some warm and fuzzy sentimental feeling. What we are really talking about, is a way of looking at the world through the eyes of God. We are talking about learning to see beauty in unlikely places, in the eyes of our fellow human beings, and even within ourselves.