August 5, 2018
Sometimes words jump out at you. I’m sure you’ve seen this. You’re reading something, and a phrase, a sentence, or sometimes just a word, stands out from the page and becomes its own focal point. There are actually a number of such phrases in this chapter of Ephesians for me! But this is the one that jumped out at me this week! “Rooted and grounded in love.” Are you “rooted and grounded in love?”
Keep that in mind. But first a little from last week. Because this is what leads us to our passage for today. We talked last week about the “inclusion of the Gentiles” in the new faith. Do you remember that? That’s what comes right before this. (Read Ephesians some time and see how it all flows!) And as I said last week, the “inclusion of the Gentiles” in this new faith was an amazing thing to hear from Saint Paul the Apostle, formerly Saul the Pharisee – “the Pharisee of Pharisees,” as he called himself! Again, the Pharisees would have taught the people to separate themselves from the Gentiles – the “outsiders.” They would have taught the people to “keep themselves and their faith pure!” So, it was amazing to hear these words from this former Pharisee. I think it was amazing to him, too! I’ll bet he thought, “I can’t believe I’m saying these things!”
Paul saw this as “the mystery hidden for ages and generations.” That’s how he describes this. The mystery is that “the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” (Ephesians 3:6)
So, that’s what he’s been talking about in the previous chapter. And that leads us to this passage for today. This is what has been called Paul’s “Prayer for the readers.” That’s the readers of his time, both the Jews and the Gentiles, and that’s us, too! Because we too are the readers!) His prayer is “That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have power 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, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:17-19)
Those are such amazing words! In them, we see that this man went from being Saul the Pharisee, a man who’s life was oriented to “Law,” to Paul the Apostle, one who’s life was oriented in “Love.” And I keep saying how amazing that was! Now, Paul saw love – love meaning actions and choices, rather than emotions – as being that which makes everything work. It was his “still more excellent way,” as he told the Corinthians!
I think Paul learned that from the Jesus. Even before his conversion, I think he probably “observed” Jesus as he spoke. I think he was one of the religious leaders of Israel who were always there keeping an eye on him! And I think some of the things Jesus said stuck with him somehow. Because when people questioned Jesus – and he may even have done so himself – they constantly asked Jesus about the law. “What is the Law on this, Jesus?” And what did Jesus do? He always took them back to what was in the heart. He took them back to love.
I think Paul remembered that. I think he was there listening when Jesus said things like, “How can you love a God who you can’t see, if you can’t love a brother who you can see?” Oh, maybe he would have dismissed that at first. Maybe he would have been thinking up arguments against it. He wasn’t crazy about this “young rabbi,” you know! Or maybe he would have “interpreted it” as pertaining to the “brothers you can see” who were not those “outsiders.”
Whatever he was thinking, I think he was there. I think he heard these things. And I think that they may well have stuck in his mind and worked their way into his thinking, along with the other things Jesus said. And then later, after all that happened to him, after the road to Damascus, he remembered it, and it made sense, and he lived it!
So all of those thoughts came out in this prayer. He prayed that we be “rooted and grounded in love.” That is so important. I’ve thought about those words as I’ve thought about the things I’ve been planting this Summer over at the house. And of course, if you know me, you know I am a terrible gardener! But I got to thinking about the roots of those plants spreading through the ground, feeding the plants, nourishing them and keeping them alive, even when it’s hot and dry above. And I’ve been thinking, where are our roots? What is it that is foundational in our faith? What is it that keeps us living and growing in the faith, even when conditions in our lives are not so good?
Paul prays that our “roots” be in “love.” And why does he wants that for us? He says it right here. So that we may have the power to know “the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that we may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (verses 18-19) We are “rooted and grounded in love” so that we can know the love of Christ and be filled with the fullness of God.” That’s why. By our love we can know God!
Think about this. We worship an infinite God, a God who is far beyond our comprehension. We get some of that from this passage, too. But a lot of times we’re not comfortable with that. We are not comfortable with a God that is more powerful than us. We’re not comfortable with an infinite God. So we try to make God “finite.” You know this! We try to make God nice and neat and understandable. We try to figure out how and why and when he works. But we can’t! God is infinite! He is beyond us! He is beyond our understanding! And the sooner we understand that, the better!
So, I’d like us to consider this! “If we think we know God, we’re probably the farthest from actually knowing God! But, if we love God, we will know him more than we think!” Let me say that again. “If we think we know God, we’re probably the farthest from actually knowing God! But, if we love God, we will know him more than we think – or more than we ever could possibly think!”
I keep saying this, and I believe it is so true. “Theology” – the study and knowledge of God – is the only “ology” we begin with the understanding that we cannot possibly comprehend the subject! It’s still a good subject to study. But it is beyond our understanding! But! Paul tells us, if we love, we can know God. For God is love. That’s what John wrote in his first letter. “Beloved, let us love one another. For love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. (I John 4:7-8) We cannot know God if we do not love God!
That’s so important! And you see, it’s not just about loving God. It’s about loving one another. It’s about choosing for each other all those good New Testament words I mentioned last week, words like “Patience,” “forbearance,” and “forgiveness.” And yes, it is in how we love one another that “they’ll know we are Christians.” We’ve heard that one recently. (And we’ve heard it a lot!) But now it is, in how we love one another, that we show that we know God. For God is love!
The more I read this, the more I see how important it is to our faith that we are “rooted and grounded in love.” Paul tells us that it’s foundational. Our faith is all about love! It comes down to that! Jesus said it, “How can you love God who you can’t see if you don’t love your brother who you can see?” Jesus said it. Paul about wrote it. Do we know it? Do we live it?
Eternal God, we know your love for us is eternal. We know it is beyond our comprehension. It is so great, you sent your son to us, even though we didn’t deserve it. You sent him to show your love, so that we can learn to love, so that we can know you better. Help us to love as Jesus loved, for we pray in his name, Amen.