Ryan Burgett, January 3, 2014
“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
In my earlier post, I spoke briefly about Jesus’ picture of our lives and actions as trees bearing fruit. I spoke of how we often focus on the bad fruit (sin) rather than the tree itself (the heart that Jesus longs to redeem). In this post, I want to dig deeper into that thought.
We live in a world completely obsessed with lifestyles. When you turn on the news, you hear new about different sexual lifestyles, religious lifestyles, cultural lifestyles, etc. The shows we see on television each seem to push particular lifestyles and worldviews and in churches and other organizations you hear the same or other competing lifestyles and worldviews. One group says their lifestyle is the right or best then another group retorts that their lifestyle is the best. But what is a lifestyle? A lifestyle is simply “a way of life.” To put this word in our picture, we could define it as a “pattern of fruit.” Lifestyles are the patterns of fruit seen in people’s lives. Now, those residing outside the body of Christ might be content to judge people based on the outward lifestyle, but we in the church (the body of Christ) are called to much more.
Jesus said the issue is not the fruit, but the tree itself. From our pulpits, from our radio and television shows, from our conferences and everywhere we are seen in public, we who represent Jesus MUST keep our focus straight. If we attack lifestyle choices from our pulpits, we are misrepresenting Jesus to a world that is starving for Him. If we want to truly represent the God who created this universe yet values our lives above his own, we MUST focus on hearts.
When we focus on the broken, hurting hearts of broken, hurting people, our love is seen. When we condemn lifestyle choices of these same broken, hurting people, only judgment is seen. Sin has already been judged and condemned and the punishment due was paid when Jesus died on the cross. We have nothing left but to love.
Love is patient, love is kind, it is not proud, it keeps no record of wrongs but rejoices with the truth. It is not our job to condemn a person’s lifestyle, it is our job to love them as a person, a unique and special creation by God. Our goal should not be to convince people that they are wrong, but to love them into the redemptive arms of Christ.
But now comes the very important and practical question, “What does that look like?” I wish there was a simple answer to that, but with this big world and the broad range of people in it, any simple answer is guaranteed to be woefully inadequate. Instead, we need to each ask ourselves in our own lives and in our own situations, “How can I best draw my brother, sister, friend, co-worker, waitress, bank teller, mailman, etc. closer to Jesus?” This question is easier to answer with some people than others, but it must be answered in how we live our lives.
Lucky for us, God did not leave us alone to ponder these questions. His Spirit is alive inside of us right now, guiding us into truth and love in Jesus’ name, and it is He who will help us answer this question even in the most difficult of circumstances. So in conclusion, let us each take a moment to check our lives, to examine whether we exude judgment or love through our actions. Then let us commit in prayer to follow the guiding of God’s Spirit as we live love to everyone around us.