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Our Best Learning

March 26th, 2014

…that you, being rooted and grounded in love…

Ephesians 3:17

We learn best when we are in an atmosphere of love – love as described in the Bible.

In dissecting this prayer we find that the phrases of Paul can bend in different directions – or at least they have been taken to be somewhat flexible. This phrase, for example, should either be attached to the one before it or the one after it. Theologically it fits well either way, so neither interpretation will lead us away from the truth. One says that Christ dwells in our hearts by faith in order to root us and ground us in love. The other says that we are rooted and grounded in love in order to have greater comprehension of love of Christ. It is hard to argue with either interpretation on the basis of theology alone. Both are clearly true.

Yet on the basis of grammar, the phrase seems to attach itself more logically to the following phrase than the preceding one. So being rooted and grounded in love refers to a grace gift of God in the believer’s life that fits him to better understand and comprehend the love of God. To quote Charles Hodge, “It is for the increase and ascendency of this grace through the indwelling of Christ, till it sustains and strengthens the whole inner man, so that the believer may stand as a well-rooted tree or as a well-founded building, that the apostle here prays.”

As is often the case with Paul’s writings, we see the emphasis on faith, love, and hope clearly laid out here – even when he does not use the words he still communicates the concept. Faith in Christ brings the experience of receiving the love of God in our hearts, which results in hope in life – even though the word “hope” does not appear the concept clearly does.The clear benefit of being rooted in love is not a weakened spiritual character, rather it is a resilient and strong sense of hope and faith. Love does not soften us in the sense that we will not endure, rather true love from God makes us hard and rugged and fit for the challenges of life. It is love and not hate that provides the inner strength we need to face our obstacles.

As with the other phrases in this prayer, it is worth our time to pay attention to its meaning. The phrase is from agriculture, particularly horticulture that is the use of plants for human consumption. As in horticulture, so it is in our souls, that what happens beneath the surface is most important for the fruit that we will bear. “Rooted” has to do with the nourishment of our souls and “grounded” has to do with the steadiness or strength of our souls. In plants the root system provides both and so the love of Christ provides both in our hearts.

It is a simple fact that the deeper the awareness and knowledge of the love of God goes in a human heart the more that human will endure for the sake of fulfilling the plans of Christ. Where the love of God enriches our souls, then there is stability and consistency in our walk. The more convinced someone is that Christ loves him, the further he will go to tell others that Christ loves them, and the more he will endure in the process.

This first speaks of a mystical spiritual experience in the innermost person, within the new nature created to be like God (Eph. 4:24 – see my devotional “The Inner Man”). There in the new person God does His work to root and ground us. The psalmist wrote, “All my streams (or fountains) are in You” (Psalm 87:7), and he believer must realize that everything he possesses that is eternal, significant, meaningful, uplifting is from God, particularly from His love.

But Paul is also praying, I believe, for the church, for we are representatives of the love of God to one another. Our best environment for learning is one where love is evident. Though God’s love is infinitely beyond ours, we are commanded to still love one another. It is hard to grasp the love of God when there is anger and resentment in the church. Love is not always gentle, for the Bible tells us that even discipline, which no one enjoys, can be an expression of love (Heb 12:5-11). But the commands are abundantly clear in scripture that we should mostly be gentle and kind, considerate and sensitive, for this more accurately represents love.

There is hardly anything that tires me like dealing with angry and mean Christians. There are, unfortunately, too many of them. I suppose they justify themselves by the Hebrews 12 passage above, but they fail to realize that they are not rooted and grounded in the love of Christ. Jude 1:21 says, “Keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.” So let us let that be our focus. If we are rooted and grounded in legalism or anger then it will show. And if we are rooted and grounded in love then it will show as well. Let the love of Christ for you nourish your soul and steady your life.

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