Lenten Devotional: What is God's Love?

by Guest Contributors

People look to their faith as a source of guidance and inspiration – and LGBTQ people and our family and friends are no different.

People look to their faith as a source of guidance and inspiration – and LGBTQ people and our family and friends are no different. Throughout the Lenten season, HRC will share devotionals from faith leaders, LGBTQ people and allies. The campaign seeks to create an environment in which LGBTQ people of faith and their allies can practice the spiritual traditions of their faith in a welcoming, inclusive environment.

The Lenten season marks the days that lead up to Jesus' crucifixion and subsequent resurrection.

For Christians, the resurrection is both a celebration of life and a reminder that people continue to suffer, including members of the LGBTQ community.

It is important to note that the season of Lent is an observance of many Christian denominations and may not resonate with all readers. Throughout this series, HRC seeks to amplify and honor the voices of LGBTQ-affirming faith leaders in many religious traditions.

Today’s post featured below comes from Helen Ryde from Reconciling Ministries Network in Asheville, North Carolina. For more about the Lenten Devotional, visit hrc.im/Lent

“So I bow in prayer before the Father. Every family in Heaven and on earth gets its true name from him. I ask the Father with His great glory to give you the power to be strong in your spirits. He will give you that strength through His Spirit. I pray that Christ will live in your hearts because of your faith. I pray that your life will be strong in love and be built on love. And I pray that you and all God’s holy people will have the power to understand the greatness of Christ’s love — how wide, how long, how high and how deep that love is. Christ’s love is greater than anyone can ever know, but I pray that you will be able to know that love. Then you can be filled with everything God has for you. If ever there was a prayer from Paul that should be etched into the very bone and marrow of our hearts and souls, it is this one.” -Ephesians 3:14-19 (ERV)

In this prayer, Paul describes the love of Christ, of God in three ways. God’s love is earthy, expansive and mysterious.

Paul speaks of our need to be rooted in God’s love. Roots sink and grow into the earth, the soil, the ground beneath us. There is something inherently natural about the experience Paul encourages us to have. This is not something intangible; it is solid, something we can dig into. Christ embodied God’s love in tactile ways that had not been experienced before his birth. He drew in the dirt. He spat in the mud and rubbed it in eyes. He cooked fish and ate. He broke bread and poured wine.

There was a worship song we used to sing: “How high and how wide, how deep and how long is your love?”* It made me feel God’s love is wonderful. Singing the truth about God’s love can do that to a person. Paul’s description of God’s love reminds me of the psalmist who recognized there is nowhere we can flee from God’s presence, from God’s love (Psalm 139:7-10).

Paul describes this love as incomprehensible, beyond all our earthly knowledge. To experience God’s love in both demonstrative and inexplicable ways is simultaneously out of our heads and into our bodies.

Can God’s love be three things at once? There is an all-encompassing nature to God’s love that is impossible for our finite minds to grasp. It is both earthy and mysterious, knowable and unknowable. At the same time, we are called to root ourselves in God’s love.

This earthy, expansive, mysterious love Christ embodies is the love God calls us to show to the world -- to our neighbors, to our friends, to all of creation. We are called to embody this love to those with whom we agree and to those with whom we disagree. Even to those who voted like us, and those who did not, we are to embody God’s love. There are no exceptions.

As a queer person, I am not excluded from receiving this love. Neither am I excluded from the call to embody it. You aren’t either. What would that look like to move through this world -- through our lives and days -- grounded and rooted thoroughly, filled with the belovedness we can’t help but see and affirm in others?

It is my prayer God will challenge us to open ourselves to the deep, wide and amazing love of God we know and long to understand. Amen.

*Sadly a quick Google search brought me to the rest of the song lyrics which dilute the message of love that the chorus proclaims. This reminds me of some Psalms which can move from proclaiming the wonders of God’s love in one line, to smiting God’s enemies in the next.

The Lenten Devotional is a faith-driven resource that compiles meditations written by 47 faith leaders from across the U.S. This project and other public education work with faith leaders in HRC's Project One America states and HRC's Religion and Faith Program is made possible in part by the generous support of the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation.