… but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.
Yesterday, we reflected on this text where Paul emphasizes his desire to keep growing and learning throughout his life. He even uses a bit of wordplay in the text, emphasizing that he has not yet “taken hold” of all things in Christ even as Christ has “taken hold” of him. The word used here is katalambano, which denotes this idea of taking hold, grasping, seizing or comprehending. Paul strives to keep growing that he might grasp the fullness of Christ’s love that has grasped Paul himself.
When an American football game is played and a quarterback is being tackled by the defense, a commentator might mention that the quarterback is “in the grasp.” All throughout the game the defensive players try to “wrap up” the ball carriers, tackling them, and grasping them with force. Was Paul perhaps referring to his own Damascus road conversion when Jesus confronted the former persecutor, Saul of Tarsus, seizing him with powerful love? With this football analogy in mind, perhaps I am suggesting that Jesus wrapped up Paul with his love!
In Ephesians 3:18-19, Paul uses this word katalambano again to implore the Christians to “grasp” the immensity of God’s love poured out for them. The imagery of Philippians 3:12 reveals a God who wraps us up in his love and thus calls us to fully grasp the immensity of this reality. Paul’s leadership was based on his identity as one seized by the love of God.
The problem that many people face is that they more readily grasp the negative labels and harmful words inflicted upon them more than they do the love of God. How is it that the painful words of a father calling us “a loser” haunt us even into adulthood? Why does the derogatory remark from a stranger linger with me even years later? We can katalambano the wrong things! God wants us to grasp his love instead.
We would be wise to follow Paul’s lead in striving to grasp more fully the immensity of God’s love. We can imagine a loving Father with his arms open wide, ready to embrace us with strength and tenderness. With God’s help, we can escape the grasp of the negative words used to hold us back from God’s best and instead soak in the powerful words of love and acceptance from God himself that will impact us as leaders and inevitably those we serve.
Something to Think About:
Paul was grasped on the road to Damascus as he encountered Jesus. Have you ever experienced a palpable sense of God’s presence, love, joy, or peace?
How does experiencing God’s love help you be a better leader? Do you recognize some negative voices and labels that continue to grasp you and hold you back?
How would people grasping the immensity of God’s love for them change your organization for the better?
Something to Do:
During prayer time this week, allow your mind to envision God in a couple of ways. Imagine a father embracing his teenage child or a mother holding her newborn to her chest. Sit with this or another comforting image for some time, inviting the Spirit to give you freedom to use your imagination. How do you feel doing this exercise? Are the images of an affirming father or an embracing mother accessible to you as you pray to God?
Spirit, help me to grasp the love of God over the other false words and labels that so easily take hold of me. Help me experience your love in fresh ways as I pray with imagination and as I go about serving those I lead. I don’t want to be a leader who runs on empty, but rather one who is filled up with the power of your inexhaustible love that can pour through me to a thirsty world. Wrap me up in your arms of love, and send me out sharing the good news that your love is real and readily available to all. Amen.