Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Rooted and grounded in love - Ephesians 3:17-19

"that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge" (Ephesians 3:17-19)
Paul uses two metaphors as he continues to pray for the spiritual lives of the Ephesians and, in both of these, it is the love of Christ that is shown as the transformative force in our lives. The first metaphor is that of being rooted. The idea is of a plant that, in order to grow upwards, sends its roots downward, into the soil, that it might receive the nutrients needed to sustain its upward growth. The second is that of being grounded. This particular Greek word can refer to a substructure that is built upon the foundation, upon which the more functional parts of a house are built. It is the same word which Jesus uses to describe those who build their lives upon a strong foundation. "And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock." (Matthew 7:25) Here the word "founded" is the same Greek word translated as "grounded" in Paul's letter to the Ephesians.

Paul prays that we would be strengthened in our inner man. While that strength is something that God provides, it often comes to us through that, and upon which, our lives are rooted and grounded. Unless we find our lives rooted and grounded in Christ's love, we are, to a large degree, cut off from the source of that strength of which our inner man desperately needs and depends upon. The quality, nature, and stature of our lives is determined by that upon which we draw our sustenance from and upon the quality and nature of the substructure on which we choose to build our lives. What is interesting here is that Paul side steps those things which we usually consider as key to building a successful Christian life, such as, theology, doctrine, disciplines, study, prayer, law, sacraments, etc. While such things may be helpful, they are not the things upon which our lives should be rooted and grounded. What is of first importance is that our lives should be rooted in love, that love should be that from which we draw our daily nourishment and food to sustain our upward and outward growth, and that we ought to be founded upon love, love being the source and motivating factor is all we desire, will, and do. When Christ dwells in us by faith, and our lives are rooted and grounded in love, then the true righteousness of Christ will be seen in and through us. Paul puts it this way, "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love." (Galatians 5:6)

Paul prays that we might be able to comprehend the full depth of the love of God. We typically think of comprehending as a mental activity, but the Greek word means to seize or to possess. Comprehending is more than having a passive knowledge of a subject, it is an active acknowledgment and understanding that brings the reality of a concept into effect in our lives. It's not that we just understand the concept of the love of God, but that this understanding so permeates our lives that it transforms us and bears fruit in our lives. There are two things that are key to fully comprehending the love of God. "We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us." (1 John 4:16) As we build our lives upon the love of God, we build upon both experiencing and believing in His love. There must be a balance between faith and experience. One who lives by experience alone may stumble and fall during times of drought where those experiences are few and far between. One who lives by belief alone may understand well, but their lack of experience in the love of Christ hinders them from accepting and receiving it and in expressing that same love to others around them. We need both faith and experience to properly grow in the love of God.

God's love is limitless. Though we may try to explore the distant limits of His love, we will never exhaust the limits of His love towards us. It is interesting that Paul refers to four dimensions of God's love: breadth, length, height, and depth. The first three refer to the normal spatial dimensions of any object, but the fourth refers to the depth of the character and nature of love. It can be translated as "profundity" and can refer to the hidden depths of a mystery. There is that which can be measured, and there is that which is beyond measure, a depth of God's love that can never be exhausted. Though we search endlessly, we will never come to the limit of the depth of the profundity of God's love. However, what a joy it will be to spend an eternity trying!

David Robison

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