Rooted and Grounded in God’s Love
By Commissioner Peter H. Chang –
Leonard Bernstein once wrote of Beethoven that he “broke all the rules, yet turned out pieces of breathtaking rightness.” Often, I feel the same way about St. Paul: he broke all the rules of syntax and turned out sentences that are imperishable; so powerful that at times the words seem already to have become deeds. Listen again to this sentence that covers six verses [from Ephesians 3:14-21]:
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with might through his Spirit in the inner [person] and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in [God’s] love, may have power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
You cannot widen your circle of compassion until first you widen your circle of security. It is a basic function of the Christian faith to give precisely that kind of security in the successively more complicated circles in which we live and move and have our being–in St. Paul’s words: ” . . . that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in God’s love, may have power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth . . . .”
All great religious leaders have understood the relationship of security to compassion. “A mighty fortress is our God,” the sole bulwark which faileth never–which is to say, “A mighty fortress is not my job nor my trade union nor my spouse nor even my life.” Yes: Let goods and kindred go, This mortal life also; The body they may kill; God’s truth abideth still, his Kingdom is forever.
If you seek your security in the eternal then you can live with all the insecurities of this temporal life, go on loving amid a sea of hatred, go on living joyfully when everything around you seems to be deteriorating. When in 1520 at Leipzig Martin Luther was asked, “Where will you be, Brother Martin, when church, state, princes and people turn against you? Where will you be then?” Replied Luther, “Why, then as now, in the hands of Almighty God.”
It was nine years later, when the prediction at Leipzig had proved true, in the darkest hour in the history of Protestantism, that Luther in Coburg sat down to write what Heine called “the Marseillaise of the Reformation.” Since then, “A Mighty Fortress” has been sung by Christians in many situations: by poor Protestants on their way into exile; by martyrs on their way to death; by whole armies before battle; by those gathered around death-prison cells.
But to avoid all sentimentality, let us notice the second line of the hymn: “Our helper he amid the flood.” This reflects the 46th Psalm on which the hymn is based: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. . .” not to spare us trouble. And remember what we read in Isaiah 43: “But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you”.
In other words, God’s security provides support, but never protection. How often we who are parents confuse loving our children with protecting them; and when they reject our protection we withdraw our support! How often we are like the disciples who occasionally sought to make life easier for Jesus but lacked the discrimination to know what was significant. But Paul never confuses support with protection: “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with might through his Spirit in the inner person . . .”
The only form of suffering that can’t possibly put us in closer touch with nature and all living creatures is the suffering of a bruised ego. Always self-centered, pride is never more so than when it is hurt. But other forms of suffering produce selfless courage. They can widen our circle of compassion, putting us in closer touch with those who suffer as we, and far more the world around, provided our own lives are rooted and grounded in the secure knowledge of God’s love for us. Only by knowing “the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge” can we at all times and in all places pass on the riches of that love.
May God bless abundantly the Messengers of God’s Love as you are, and continue to be, deeply rooted and grounded in God’s love.