Ryan Burgett, May 18, 2013
“Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.” Matthew 7:17-8
Jesus was a master of word pictures and showed this in his brilliant parables and through countless analogies. One common word picture he used was that of a tree and its fruit. In this picture, people are divided into two groups which are distinguished by the “fruit” of their lives. Those who bear through their lives the fruit of righteousness and love are “good” trees and those who bear the fruit of selfishness and idolatry (in other words, sin) are “bad” trees.
When we see a fruit tree we often notice the fruit first. We see an apple tree and know it is such because we can clearly see the apples. The same goes for other trees. In the same way, when we see people we often judge them based on the fruit we see in their lives. But while the recognition of the fruit is an essential first step in understanding a person, it is not the only step.
We in the church are notorious for looking at the fruit of one’s life, judging it as wrong and then pressuring that person or group to bear different fruit. But the question I want to deal with here is whether that is a loving or effective way to deal with sin in someone’s life.
Jesus taught that the fruit is not the problem, but a symptom of the problem. The reality is that you cannot change a tree by pressuring it to bear different fruit. The ONLY way the fruit can be changed is if the tree itself is changed. In the same way that outward pressure can not change a tree, outward, judgmental pressure put on a person or group will not lead to lasting change. And when someone uses outward pressure (usually guilt) to try and change another person’s life, the pressure causes division because it is seen as judgment. It makes sense that if I turn to someone and say, “You are wrong!” that their first response will most often be, “Oh, so what makes you right!” When this happens, love is lost and a barrier is put up which will make it even harder for someone outside of truth to accept the gospel.
There is only one solution to the problem of bad fruit, and that solution is Jesus. Jesus is the one who cleans us and redeems us and it is only through him that we can be born again into the life that He has designed us for. Love has to look past past the fruit to the tree itself, to the life which Jesus longs to redeem.