so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength 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, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
(Ephesians 3:17-19 ESV)
Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians continues today with the apostle’s hope that his readers – then and now – would be rooted and grounded in love.
The use of the metaphor “rooted” pictures a tree that is securely anchored in the soil so that it can obtain all the nutrients it needs to grow bigger and stronger. Likewise, when a believer is rooted in the love of Christ – when we understand how deep and wide God’s love for us is – we can grow to be the people that God wants us to be.
But this cannot happen through any human effort. It can only happen if Christ dwells in our hearts through faith. Then we will exhibit the fruit of the Spirit described in Galatians 5:22-23. It is not a coincidence that the first of these fruits is love. If we are not rooted in love we cannot build the other character traits (e.g. joy, peace, patience).
Just like a tree is a living, growing organism, so is a Christian. We are growing – however slowly – into the image of Christ. The deeper we grow inside (e.g. the part of a tree below the soil) the more productive our lives will be on the outside (e.g the part of the tree above the soil).
The second of Paul’s two mixed metaphors, “grounded“, describes a building that has been erected on a firm foundation that does not move. In a similar way, a Christian who understands God’s love for them will not be easily shaken when the storms of life hit. Their emotions will not fluctuate with every change of circumstance.
When we are growing deeper in our knowledge of God’s love for us and when that love becomes the foundation of who we are, we can then display that love to others. God’s definition of love is not something that satisfies self. It is something that is outwardly directed – it is selfless and makes others better [1 Corinthians 8:1].
It (love) is also the most important aspect of who we are. A person may have lots of money or lots of knowledge. But if she does not have love, then she is nothing [1 Corinthians 13:2].
Just as the test of a tree’s roots is a strong storm and the test of a building’s foundation is an earthquake or flood, so the test of our love is when we experience trials. If we find ourselves not responding in love then we need to sink our roots deeper and solidify our foundation – the love of Christ within us.
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