As I work my way through the New Testament, I am sometimes struck by a pattern or motif in the writing; I’m thinking back to when I discovered the link between faith and healing.
At other times, God focuses my attention on an overarching theme like the blindness that Paul sat with and then shed to be given a new outlook.
But strangely, this time, it wasn’t a theme or motif but a tiny phrase that lodged itself into my mind. For a writer, a curious or memorable string of words is often a signal to lean into that phrase.
ROOTED AND GROUNDED IN LOVE: THE TINY PHRASE THAT SPEAKS VOLUMES
The phrase that God pointed my attention to is a little clause in the middle of a prayer that Paul is offering to the people of Ephesus:
“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you being rooted and grounded in love, may have the 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 the fullness of God.Ephesians 3.14-19, ESV
Yes, that was one sentence.
Paul is not known for being economical with his language.
So let’s first break down the sentence to its backbone— not because the prepositional phrases aren’t important— but just to first grasp the core of what Paul is praying. I’ll pull apart this verse, and do a little re-organizing to ensure that we are understanding his earnest (albeit lengthy) prayer.
I bow my knees before the Father
that he may grant you [people of Ephesus] to be strengthened with power
through his Spirit
so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith
that you may have the strength
[that comes from] being rooted and grounded in love
to know the breadth and length and height and depth of that love
a love that surpasses (human) knowledge
so that you may be filled with the fullness of God.
NARROWING IN ON THE PHRASE ABOUT TAKING ROOT
So according to Paul, when Christ dwells in our hearts and we have faith, we are being rooted in love.
I looked up the Greek word in this passage, rhiza, which translates to to cause to take root.
This definition implies that the rootedness in love did not exist until a catalyst— in this case, Christ dwelling in our hearts— causes the rooting to occur.
Put another way, when we turn our hearts over to faith in Christ, we are not just growing the roots deeper into our existing soil; rather, we are being transplanted into new soil where our roots will then affix us.
And not just any soil— the soil of His love.
We are being transplanted into new soil where our roots will then affix us.
And not just any soil— the soil of His love.
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE SOIL WE ROOT IN
Soil is the lifeblood to the plants: “The right soil composition allows roots to perform their function properly. Roots capture water, nutrients, and minerals as well as anchors plants to the ground. Whenever the health of roots in compromised, plants are weakened, and without fertile soil, roots cannot grow” (Bayer Cropscience).
Soil surrounds, holds, and feeds the plant.
The quality of the soil determines the quality of the plant.
And if we are not rooted in the soil of love, then what are we planting ourselves in? What are we allowing to feed and sustain us?
Am I rooted in busyness, productivity, and worldly achievement?
Sadly, this is the first answer that comes to mind for me. I am task-driven, and on some level, I mistakenly believe that my value is wrapped up in what I produce.
If I get everything done on my weekly to-do list, I pat myself of the back for running a household well. If I don’t get some things done, I start shaming myself: you only work part-time, why isn’t all of this completed? You are letting your family down.
And that’s not what Jesus wants for me. There is no prize in heaven for “accomplished most household tasks” or “had it all together” or “very responsible.”
If I am feverishly climbing the rungs of the to-do list like a ladder, to where will I ascend? I won’t. It’s a trick ladder, you see. There are always more rungs ahead. It doesn’t end.
I’m not saying I should shirk my responsibilities, of course. God has entrusted me to be a wife and to raise three little boys to be men of Faith.
But the busyness I am referring to almost never describes my core purpose; it’s simply an exercise in the mundane. It ultimately doesn’t matter if I price-check dog food or get birthday gifts mailed out in time.
Being rooted in His love means letting go of striving to produce and achieve, and remembering to rest in Him. To talk to Him. To listen to Him.
Am I rooted in other people’s opinions or worldly praise?
If we are saturated in the desire to please or impress people, we make every decision with that desire feeding us.
- Perhaps we buy trendy or designer clothes rather than tithing.
- Perhaps we stifle the truth of our hearts so not to offend anyone.
- Perhaps we mask our identity in Him to be cooler or more popular in the eyes of man.
- Perhaps we work and work to see the numbers of our “likes” and followers go up without once asking God if he likes what we have been doing.
Ironically, it is all futile. We can do everything perfectly by the world’s standards and people will still find ways to criticize us.
But if we stretch our roots deep into the soil of the love of Christ, we will strive to be perfect in His eyes and the result is eternal prosperity.
Am I rooted in comfort and the desires of the flesh?
If you have internet connection and a device on which to read this, it is safe to say you are living comfortably. In fact, have you ever considered that the majority Americans can avoid temperature discomfort at all times?
Think about it, you emerge from your blanketed bed and step into a shower with instant warm water. You get into your temperature-controlled car and drive to your place of work that likely has central heat and air.
One can go an entire day in perfect bodily comfort, and many of us do.
Now, of course there are exceptions, and of course I am not suggesting we risk hyper- or hypo-thermia in order to make a point.
What I am suggesting is that we often are driven by what will satisfy the flesh and not the Spirit.
I am entirely guilty of this.
- I get antsy if it’s been too long between meals.
- If I have a stacked day of work and adulting, I believe I deserve a fancy drink from a coffee shop.
- If the water heater doesn’t warm my shower in time, I get impatient and irritated.
A significant portion of first-world inhabitants, myself included, are not conditioned to deal well with discomfort.
But then what of our spiritual condition? What message am I sending when I am guilty of the above? That the desires of my flesh should be met at all costs?
Paul’s letter to the Galatians indicates the exact opposite:
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each otherGalatians 5.16-17
Again, am I saying we discard the comforts of modern life? I am not.
What I am saying is that being rooted in the soil of love means we serve the Spirit above the flesh and strive to produce its fruits: love, joy, peace patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 22).
That last one— self-control—means I can ask the Spirit to help me engage in moderation with bodily comforts. I can turn over desires and impulses to him— particularly ones that would prove damaging to the bearing of fruit.
WHAT IS THE SOIL OF LOVE LIKE?
When we accept Christ into our hearts and become transplanted into the soil of love, we are experiencing a complex, multifaceted love.
We are rooted in unconditional love
We do not have to earn God’s love— and even if we mess up, we still have it: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5.8, ESV).
We are rooted in everlasting love
His love does not end; it is eternal: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3.16).
We are rooted in love so valuable, it was worth the life of Jesus
If you are a parent, you will be able to grasp the magnitude of this sacrifice: This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4.9-11).
Do our roots sometimes stray into other soil— the soil of chronic busyness, the soil of pleasing others, the soil of bodily comfort? Sure, we are human.
But when we remain rooted in earthly matters, we are in a soil that doesn’t feed us well. We don’t grow, we don’t blossom, we don’t bear fruit.
So we ask for grace and forgiveness, and for our roots to find their way back to the soil of His love where we produce the good fruit.
with His love,