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Monday, September 22, 2014

Rooted and Grounded in Love

            You have a worldview.  So do I.  Everyone does.  The worldview is the lens through which we see … everything.  Often, we are unaware of our worldview or that we even have one, but we do.  How we see is colored by our family, our culture, our heritage – so many things.  It is extremely hard to change one’s worldview.  But every worldview, and there are many, evolves out of human culture which is tainted by sin.  In this sense then, we are born in sin because we are born into sinful systems – all of us.
We need to change our worldview, if we want to walk in the way of Christ.  We have help.  The Holy Spirit, the church (when it is a healthy community), the Bible, and the traditions of Christianity all equip us to see from the point of view of the Kingdom of God. 
            Imagine a 26-year-old young woman.  She has achieved an undergraduate degree in business from an Ivy League school, worked a year or two in Charlotte, and spent the last two years at the Kenan-Flagler business school getting her MBA.  Her upbringing, her socio-economic class, her education - everything that shaped her comes out of a worldview than in turn creates her worldview. 
The soil in which she has grown is Western liberal arts education.  The foundation on which she stands is the profitability of the business where she will work.  Neither is inherently evil, but the culture does not promote seeing the world through kingdom-of-God lenses.  The Western education encourages academic excellence.  The middle class American life encourages a certain standard of living.  Success in business encourages profit.  All can be good things, but none in and of itself promotes the gospel. 

            If her soil is education, business, North Carolina, what soil has produced you and me?  Family; culture; nationality?  We are rooted in something.  What?  And, on what foundation do we stand?  What’s supporting us?  What can we count on?
            The Apostle Paul wants to influence our world by inviting us to take up root in new soil and stand on a new foundation. 
His words in Ephesians 3 make up a prayer.  “I bow my knees before the Father” (3:14).  “I pray that according to the riches of [the Father’s] glory that you may be strengthened … with power through his Spirit” (3:16).  “I pray that you may have the knowledge … to know the love of Christ that surpasses all knowledge” (from vs.18, 19).  If these prayers are answered and the riches of the Father’s glory indeed strengthen us with the power of the Holy Spirit and we have knowledge of the unmatched love of Christ, I believe it will result in us seeing everything – everything – with a Kingdom-of-God worldview. 
Paul hopes Christ will dwell in our hearts as we are rooted and grounded in love.  Agape is the word used for love in verse 17 and again in 19.  This is selfless love, put-the-other-first love.  This is love that seeks no benefit for the giver but is given freely and abundantly for the good of the other.  This love makes up the soil in which disciples are grown. 
We see it in the gospel of John with passages like “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son;” and, “They will know that you are mine by this; that you love one another.”  In the essay entitled 1st John, chapter 4, we read God is love.  In Galatians 5 we read of the fruit of the Spirit.  That fruit grows in the soil of love.  We are rooted in love.
We stand on love.  The well-known love passage, 1 Corinthians 13 says love never fails.  Three remain, faith, hope, and love, and the greatest of these is love.  No matter what comes along in life, love drives our responses.  Fear causes overreaction.  Fear leads me to yell at my wife or become defensive or shout out curses.  Fear leads me to react and I end up hurting myself and others.  Love helps us endure difficult things.  Rooted in love, standing on love, I can respond to anything in a measured, calm way, with bundles and bundles of grace and mercy.   We can count on the love of God in Jesus Christ.  It never leaves us and always guides us.  We are grounded in love. 
Rooted and grounded in love – this is the way of the gospel.

I offer three worldviews that I think a lot American Christians have; these are undoubtedly inherited, not chosen.  Yet, these are not Jesus-first worldviews.  And any time Jesus is not first, determining how we see everything else in life, then we are not oriented toward the Kingdom.  That love Paul prays for is not driving us.  We’re driven by something else, something that ultimately ungodly.
The first of these competing worldviews is the enlightenment.  We are products of the enlightenment.  We know the Earth goes around the sun and the not the other way around.  We know of molecules and atoms and particles smaller than that.  Even people ignorant of the methods of science live by what science produces.  This is true of discoveries that lead to cures.  It is true of  the technology that is responsible for how we produce food, entertain ourselves, and fight wars.  We have grown in the soil of scientific advancement.  This has created in us a cold, unfeeling worldview– the antithesis of the self-sacrificing love we see in Jesus. 
This is does not mean science is evil.  Our church is full of people who are in different fields of science.  Their discipleship is lived out in the pursuit of new discoveries and a love for knowledge.  One way they serve the Lord is in their research.  But disciples who are scientists acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord.
When the thirst for more knowledge takes over and we become rooted in curiosity instead of being rooted in love and we stand on intellectual achievement instead of standing on love, then science becomes an idol which dictates what we can and cannot think and say.  Followers of Jesus practice the various scientific disciplines with a commitment to excellence, but stay rooted and grounded in love.  In this way we are witnesses who tell about the Kingdom He will establish.
Science produces one competing worldviews.  A second contributor is capitalism.  Our democracy is a capitalist nation.  Just as the science produced by the enlightenment contributes to human flourishing and thus can be done in service to God, our capitalistic democracy is an environment in which we can flourish. 
Our system is based on money and we find ourselves rooted in money, standing on what we have – houses, cars, insurance plans, retirement accounts.  Nothing is wrong with this, but unless it is all seen to be in service to God, ultimately owned by God, it begins to take over.  Greed becomes the soil where we are rooted.  The acquisition of more stuff and newer stuff and upgraded stuff takes over.  This constant craving for more, newer, and better becomes an idol that demands everything from us.  Faith is pushed to a small corner of our lives, which shrinks and shrinks until God has no place at all. 
We need to be wise in the ways of money.  Root and grounded in love, our capitalistic democracy affords us unique opportunities to practice New Testament generosity in our own community and around the world and we use money in this way, as a tool to advance the Kingdom.  In this way, we give witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ.  If we find ourselves rooted in money, greed takes over and the gospel is crowded out completely. 
We are enlightened people, products of science.  We live in a republic where democracy truly speaks and capitalistic motivations drive us.  The enlightenment would have us rooted in science.  We, rooted in love, appreciate science but in service to God, not at the expense of our faith.  Capitalism would have rooted in money.  We use money and strive to make more of it.  But we are rooted in love.  We stand on love.  Money is a tool to help us spread the good news of Jesus.  A third force that would root us in something other than the soil of love is our nation – America.
With pride I say I am an American.  We envision ourselves as rooted in freedom.  Somehow though, this has evolved and we think it means we are entitled to do whatever we want whenever we want.  Freedom has become this sense that our desires ought to be met all the time. 
What foundation supports this self-centered notion?  Power.  Rooted in a distorted sense of freedom, we stand on what we believe to be the irrepressible power of the United States.  The terrorist attacks of 9/11 shocked America, but here 13 years later; our nation still had a sense of invincibility.  We still act like there will never come a time when America is not the most powerful country on earth. 
As Christ followers, we cannot put our confidence in a government, not even the American government.  We love our country.  We vote, in serve in the military, and show our devotion in numerous other ways.  We want to be good Americans.  But our rooting is not in the red, white, and blue.  This may be the soil in which we were born.  But in our baptism, we were transplanted and transformed.  We are now rooted in the love that Jesus showed when he went to the cross. 
For too many people, Christianity is a cultural expression, not a testimony that God has done a new thing in Jesus.  In Christ, we truly are different from the culture around us.  Enlightenment thinking and discovery, democratic capitalism, and American power – these forces lead to a worldview in which we see ourselves as smart, free, and powerful.  But the wisdom of God is lacking, we are slaves to sin, and our power is an illusion.
In Christ, we live in a worldview where God is in control, not us.  God, the creator of all that is good has a plan to redeem and renew his creation.  Ephesians 3:15 says every family in Heaven and Earth takes its name from God the Father.  We are all made in God’s image.  We are all fallen in sin.  And the greatest bond humans can enjoy is unity in Christ, which only comes when Christ is first in all things.  Paul prays in verse 19 that we would be filled with the fullness of God.  Once filled, we cannot be filled with anything else.  No other love can define us. 
            A young professional woman living several states away from the town where she was raised attends worship.  In this church, she has been welcomed, loved, and made to feel at home.  On this particular Sunday morning, she hugs the older lady, the one who reminds her of her grandmother.  Her Bible study leader leads a prayer time in which she hears her classmate’s requests and her heart goes out to them.  In the worship time, one of the songs ignites flames of deep love for God in her heart.  And the entire experience is rooted in Jesus’ love.
            Upon leaving at the end, she does what she does every week.  She ask God to empower her so that in her profession, work she does very well, she can be light – the light of the Gospel.  She prays God will make opportunities for her to point people to Him.  She prays God will make her ready when those opportunities come.  She can pray this prayer because in this church, she really believes God hears and answers prayers like this.  The love of God in which she is rooted is also the foundation on which she stands. 
            Love – the apostle prays that you and I would know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge and be filled with all the fullness of God.


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