Monday, April 16, 2012

Rooted and Established In Love

Ephesians really gives us a look into Paul’s prayer life, at least concerning the churches he was worked with.  In Ephesians 1:15-23 Paul expresses his prayer for this church.  And now in chapter 3, verses 14-21, he continues that prayer.  Here the prayer appears to have two parts; that the vessel be prepared, and then that it be filled.

The vessel that Paul refers to here is my inner being, or my spirit.  When I come to Christ, it is a spiritual rebirth; and my spirit is weak and puny.  God has a treasure he wants to pour into the vessel of my spirit, but it is incapable of holding it.  It would be like putting an elephant into a cage designed to hold a chicken; it just would not work.  So Paul prays that God would, out of the riches available to him, strengthen my spirit to the point that it would be adequate for the task.  You might think of this as an episode of This Old House.  The Holy Spirit shows up with all the right tools and materials and transforms the shack that was there into a mansion that is suitable as a dwelling place for God.

As the vessel of my spirit is prepared, Christ will make his home within.  To be clear, Christ will live within from the moment of my salvation; he does not wait until the new house is fully completed before moving in.  But as the house is remodeled, expanded and strengthened, Christ’s presence and ability to effectively work within me will grow.  Rather than a strict two step process, this is more of an iterative process, or journey, that we are engaged in.  As I surrender more and more in faith to him, he works to remodel the house, making it more useful, which in turn encourages me to respond with greater faith, which produces more change and effectiveness ….

As Paul goes on from here he seems to shift metaphors a bit, but I believe he is still building on the strengthened and indwelled vessel.  Being rooted and established is very much an agricultural term.  I planted some rose bushes a month ago.  Right now I could walk out into the rose bed and yank up one of these new roses with no effort at all; they have not yet established a good root system.  To make way for these roses I had to pull a couple of older plants that were not what we really wanted.  One of these old rooted and established roses was nearly impossible for me to pull and required some pretty significant labor and heavy tools.  Paul’s prayer is that, like my roses were rooted in the soil of the rose bed, so I would be rooted and established in Christ’s love, unshakable and unmovable.

As the vessel of my inner man is strengthened, and Christ fills it more and more, resulting in my becoming rooted and established in his love, the next step is to work at understanding the scope of Christ’s love.  To know how wide, long, high and deep something is to understand what its limits are.    So what are the limits of Christ’s love?  Obviously there are none; except maybe for that person who cut me off in traffic this morning.  And maybe those dirty stinky guys in robes shooting at our soldiers in Afghanistan.  And maybe those Democratic (or Republican) leaders who are destroying our country.  And maybe the guy who killed 77 children in Norway.  And maybe …

Christ’s love reaches out to destroy the walls or barriers that separate people; that keep us from sharing the good news of Jesus with other people in this world.  And the more his love fills my life, the more I should understand that his love is for everyone.  An unwillingness to take Christ’s love to some person, or class of person is a sign of immaturity in my walk with Christ.  Allowing my roots to sink deeper into his love will open me more to the extent of his love and help to tear down those barriers I have erected.

Another benefit to being rooted and established in love is that you can know the unknowable.  The love of Christ is beyond my ability to completely comprehend; it surpasses knowledge.  But it is not beyond my ability to experience, or to know.  The deeper my roots sink down, the more I experience his love in my own life.  Take root in Christ’s love and allow it to become your life.

And the more I experience the unknowable love of Christ, the more I am filled with God.  Paul brings us back to the metaphor of the strengthened vessel; a vessel that has been made adequate to hold all of God’s fullness.  This is a task that is beyond me.  But God is able to remodel this old house to make it suitable as a dwelling for himself, a house that is filled with the love of Christ.

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