Rooted in Love
14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. 16 I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, 17 and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. 18 I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
20 Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
The word “love” is a word that is pervasive in our society. Not only do we talk about love in relation to God, but we say things like “I love chocolate” or “I love my new car” or “I love to travel.” One of the problems with the way we use the word “love” is that it loses almost all meaning. How can we use the same word to describe our relationship with God and the fact that God died for us and at the same time use that same word to describe how awesome our new car is, or how much we enjoy going to the beach in the summer?
One of our problems is that we’ve confused what it means to love. We think love is helping someone, or doing something for them, or serving another person. But too often we confuse “love” with being “nice.” We think loving someone is treating them kindly, opening a door for them to walk through, letting a car into traffic in front of you, picking up the check at lunch.
The way Jesus talks of love gives love a very different meaning than anything like how we think of being “nice” or “good.” Jesus doesn’t call us to be nice, he calls us to love.
In John 15, Jesus says, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. 16 You did not choose me but I chose you.
That sounds a lot like what Paul is saying in Ephesians - “you did not choose me but I chose you…” We are chosen in Christ, really chosen in Christ’s love, Christ’s love for us. We are rooted and grounded in love, not our love for God but God’s love for us.
Karl Barth the famous Swiss theologian, one of the greatest theologians of the 20th century said over and over again that God is pro nobis: for us.
Love one another as I have first loved you. How did Jesus love us? He died for us? How are we to love one another? We are to die for them, to sacrifice ourselves, to give of ourselves as Jesus sacrificed for us.
Paul’s emphasis to the Ephesians is not that we should love other people, not that we should lay down our lives for us. Paul’s emphasis is that Jesus is for us, God in Christ is for us. Jesus is how God loved us. We are rooted and grounded in love through the work of Christ for us.
When we think about love, we think about relationships. That love is embodied in relationships. In marriage, we show and express our love through day after day after day doing the dishes, cooking dinner, cutting the grass, cleaning the bedroom, spending time together, teaching children the difference between right and wrong. Marriage is all about love, it embodies the kind of love Jesus talks about: laying down our life, our ego, our pride, our time for the other. The kind of love that God exemplified in Jesus.
One of the greatest theologians alive, Stanley Hauerwas, says we need to make it more difficult for people to enter into marriage because it’s problematic to think that you fall in love and that’s why you should get married. That’s not a sufficient reason. And actually you don’t fall in love, you fall in lust. You want to get married because you’re attracted to them physically, not because you want to lay down your life for them.
Instead, the church needs to know how the marriage between two people is going to build up the holiness of the community. Most of us don’t have a clue what we’re doing when we get married, and when we say things like “I love you” what we really mean is “We get along pretty well.” We don’t actually know what it means to love that person and that’s why we have to come before a community and take vows because when we forget, or flat out don’t want to remember our vows, everyone else testifies to us that we witnessed God joining them together and what God has joined together let no one put asunder.
One of Hauerwas’ funny lines is, “Christians are required to love one another even if they’re married.” He says that love does not create marriage, but marriage creates love. Marriage isn’t based on love, but faithfulness and commitment to one another such that over a life time of being with one another we can look back at the relationship and call it love. It’s only after a life-time of day after day after day of faithfulness, commitment, and patience that we can look back after 50 years of marriage and say that we love one another.
David and Bathsheba
The story Dave read about David and Bathsheba from 2 Samuel is kind of the opposite of what love is. David is the one in power, much like God, but he abuses his power, he takes advantage of Bathsheba and Uriah, he essentially uses his power to take whatever he wants and, in the end, he even takes the life of Uriah.
God is the opposite. God is the one who is the real King, the King of the universe, God truly has all the power, but God doesn’t abuse the power or take advantage of any of His creation. God doesn’t take the life of anyone, God gives his life up for his kingdom. David loses sight of what his role and purpose is as a king. As a king, he’s supposed to take care of the kingdom, be a steward of it, govern it with justice because that’s how God rules God’s kingdom.
Relationships are based on love. Our relationship with God is based on God’s love for us. In a way, the love of a perfect spouse is like God’s love for us. The husband or wife who loves unconditionally and eternally is similar to the way God loves. The perfect parent is like God, the parent who never gets angry, who is always patient, always willing to listen. We’re not perfect, but through the power of the Holy Spirit in us, we can love the way God loves.
Rooted and Grounded in Love
Sequoias are the biggest trees in the world, some are 2000 years old, but they only grow in the Sierra-Nevada mountains in California where the bedrock is just a few feet under the ground. Their roots cannot grow very deep, because the granite bedrock is so close to the soil so the tree does not actually have a taproot, one single root that goes all the way down to give it support.
But somehow the tree has to be able to support all the weight of 2 or 3 tons, so the tree roots grow out, horizontally hundreds of yards wide and it becomes tangled in together with the roots of other sequoia trees in the area. Their roots become enmeshed and they support one another and grow together.
Paul gives us this image when he says we are rooted and grounded in love.
We are the roots, we stand upon the bedrock of Jesus, the foundation of our church is Jesus, he gives us our strength, but we also need the support and strength of one another, we need to constantly be in relationship with one another, supporting our brothers and sisters in Christ. Our roots are connected to the trunk, the body, there are many roots, but one body. And the body produces branches and leaves and eventually fruit. When we are a healthy, living organism through the work of Jesus and the Holy Spirit, we produce fruit, we show love and embody love, we love.
Paul says we have to act together as one body. In 1 Corinthians, he says “I can plant a seed and you can water the tree, but it’s God who gives the growth. It’s God who gives us growth. It’s God who produces fruit.”
And it’s all rooted in the love of God in Jesus for us, for us.