“that you, being rooted and grounded in love,
may be able to comprehend…
the width and length and depth and height –
to know the love of Christ”
Ephesians 3:17, 18
This is a beautiful passage that Paul has written here. I have long preferred verses about God’s love and forgiveness to those about, oh, say, the lake of fire, but this one is particularly encouraging. Of course, how can you not love a passage that includes phrases like “the width and length and depth and height” alongside the phrase “the love of Christ” ??
At first thought, the words “rooted” and “grounded” seem like synonyms to me, both being used to convey one concept, but upon further meditation (and the aid of my dictionary), I find them very different, and yet each one crucial in its own way.
Paul’s words here, about being rooted and grounded are a prayer; a desire of his for the people of the church of Ephesus. The extent of Christ’s love, however, is a fact. The variable is simply one’s knowledge or understanding of it. Paul’s prayer for them, and now for us, is that we might be able to comprehend the incredible love of Christ, so that we may be filled with all the fullness of God.
“Rooted,” as you might imagine, means firmly established or fixed. Being rooted, we are firm. Stable. And anyone who has felt unstable knows the joy of being stable! “Stable” implies peace, contentment, or as Rudyard Kipling would say, “the ability to keep your head while those around you are losing theirs.” I am rooted in love; I know this. I might sway in the wind, but I am firmly established.
“Grounded,” on the other hand, means “instructed in fundamental principles.” A desire to be grounded is why I attend church. It’s why I study the Bible. I want to be thoroughly educated in God’s principles. I think of when I played softball as a child and had a tendency to step out of the batter’s box, toward the pitcher, instead of waiting for the ball to come to me. My coach would repeatedly tell me, “Plant your feet!” and once, a teammate (during practice) even came over and covered my shoes with dirt, in an effort to illustrate that my feet should stay put. It’s a wonderful analogy for a Christian, as well as a batter. In order for a plant to remain firmly rooted, there must be plenty of good, healthy dirt around it. Sometimes a healthy plant starts to have exposed roots, due to too much water or wind, and fresh, nutrient-filled dirt needs to be packed around the base of it. Even though we are firmly rooted in God’s love, we need the grounding of spiritual study to keep us that way.
God wants us to be strengthened, that Christ would dwell in our hearts. And Christ does not dwell in the heart of just anyone, so Paul tells us how this comes to be: by faith. Faith is the how. And the result of Christ dwelling in our hearts is the ability to comprehend the nearly incomprehensible: the love of Christ.