The heart of the matter
We commonly use the word “heart” to indicate the center of a person. We think of our hearts, and not our heads, as holding our emotions and passions. This kind of thinking isn’t isolated to us modern folks, either. In fact, the ancients took the metaphor of what our hearts contain even further then we do.
To them, the heart was considered to be the seat of the inner self (composed of life, soul, mind, and spirit). It was where all parts that make you actually “you” reside and are sorted out.
Keep this definition in mind as you read about Paul’s desire to present everyone mature in Christ, since he says the maturity we need to develop begins in the heart:
We proclaim Him, warning and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ. I labor for this, striving with His strength that works powerfully in me.
For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you, for those in Laodicea, and for all who have not seen me in person. I want their hearts to be encouraged and joined together in love, so that they may have all the riches of assured understanding, and have the knowledge of God’s mystery – Christ. In Him all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden.
Paul’s desired maturity in believers begins with ensuring that the inner parts of you that make up “you” are both encouraged and joined together with fellow believers.
We need to be admonished, strengthened, and cheered on by the believers around us. We have a desire to be united with others and know that we are not alone. Notice, though, that Paul is specific in how we are both encouraged and joined together. And even though the context of our encouragement and togetherness is found in love, Paul isn’t just talking about nice-to-have, squishy feelings. Earlier, Paul used the same agape word for love when he discussed how God the Father felt about Jesus:
He has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son He loves
Paul also used the same agape word for love when he described how the Colossians had been treating each other:
for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints
Only a love that penetrates to our hearts could save us, and it’s the same kind of love that develops and matures us. Loving each other the way God the Father loves God the Son will bring the encouragement and togetherness that we need from one another. Continuing in this kind of love is a foundational step in our maturity as sons and daughters of God.