Article: A Thorny Issue

Jesus said…
“No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thorn bushes, or grapes from briers. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.” Luke 6:43-45

 This passage scares me. It always has, as well as its companion found in Matthew 7:15-23 which specifically talks about false prophets using similar words.

I wonder, what kind of “fruit” do I produce? Is it good fruit? It is mediocre “produce” or is it rotten fruit? I am not good at that kind of self-evaluation.

I know that I sin. As I have said in some of my previous writings, the older I get the more aware I am of my sinfulness. Life was easier when I thought I was a decent person. I don’t think that anymore. That is why these words of Jesus trouble me.

I don’t want to be a thorn bush.

The only thing that I can cling to is this: I know that Jesus does not expect perfection from anyone, including his followers. When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray in the same way that John the Baptist taught his disciples, Jesus didn’t teach them howto pray but whatto pray for!

A part of that prayer (that you know so well) says, “Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.”Luke 11:4a

If perfection was possible once we started following Jesus, we wouldn’t need part of the Lord’s Prayer and Jesus would not have included it.

When Jesus institutes The Lord’s Supper, what does he say? “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”Matthew 26:28 This holy meal that we receive is meant to provide forgiveness.

Even though this passage still concerns me, it is a relief that this is not about being perfect. Although Jesus doesn’t explain what these verses mean, I am going to go out on a limb and say this has to do with the consistency of a person over the long haul.

It is as if Jesus is saying, “If you expect kindness from a (consistently) abusive person you won’t find it so don’t go looking for it.”

Or, “If you look to a (consistently) immoral person for advice or leadership, you probably won’t receive good counsel.”

In other words, if you are looking for something in the wrong place, you will never find it.

Jesus tells us that everyone has a reputation. (Each tree is recognized by its own fruit.) Good or bad, we all are known by our demeanor, our words and our actions. It is unavoidable. Although we may never know what our reputation is we still have one. People do talk about us when we are not around and what they say about us points to our reputation.

Our overall behavior is our reputation. When we do or say something that is not consistent with our reputation (good or bad), people take notice. That action is not our reputation and that is not what I am talking about. A sinful action doesn’t make or break your reputation. Whew!

Remember in Charles Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol” where the main character Ebenezer Scrooge has a change of heart and reputation! His employee Bob Cratchit could barely believe it… for good reason! Mr. Scrooge was behaving in a way that was not consistent with his reputation.  Ebenezer’s nephew (Fred) felt the same way when he encountered his uncle on Christmas Day! Although Mr. Scrooge had truly changed, people were suspicious because it was so out of character.

Although I know “you can’t please all the people all of the time,” I hope and pray that I am more of an apple tree than a briar patch over the long haul.

God bless you,
Pr. Ben

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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