Saturday, January 16, 2016

Fruit doesn't lie

It’s a sobering thought, “For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known” (Luke 8:17). This has its good and its bad implications—good, if we’re waiting for justice, bad if we’re afraid of it; good, if we’re waiting for mercy, bad if we want revenge. Why? Well, if we’ve suffered unjustly, we hope our hidden righteousness will vindicate us. If we’ve been lying, cheating, and privately abusing others, we don’t want everyone to find out. If our lives have nothing but failure and brokenness to show, we hope that maybe there’s something about us that will still attract God’s mercy and pardon. If we feel that others have oppressed and hurt us, we’re worried that in judging them, God might let them off the hook after He sees our hidden sins. Deep down we all know that no one deserves reward, not even ourselves, but we still hope for mercy to be shown us and punishment to be dealt to our enemies. In this we ourselves are our worst enemy.

Or again, we’ve heard it repeatedly yet we try not to understand,
“No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit” (Luke 6:43). A tree can only bear the fruit it produces by nature. If it’s a good tree, the fruit is good; if it’s a bad tree, it can only bear bad fruit. So we apply this saying to ourselves when we prosper and see ourselves in the limelight, when we can confidently claim ‘the promises’ in scripture. “God has blessed me. Why? Because I’m good!” we think to ourselves. We look at our next door neighbor. His life is a shambles. His house is a ruin. His family is destroyed. He’s wracked with sickness and pain. He’s nearly friendless. Yet he says that he tried to live the right way, he tried to follow Christ, but to no avail. He has come to destruction just the same. He shrugs his shoulders not resentfully but resignedly, “I guess I’m just a bad person, because my fruit is bad.” We don’t help him understand the truth, because that will hurt us. Inwardly we think, “Fruit doesn’t lie.”

But there are things that happen. Yes, a good tree produces good fruit as it was meant to, but trees don’t often grow alone. They are planted in orchards where they can stand and grow together, often behind a windbreak. They are cared for and given every incentive to be what they are, good trees, and to bear good fruit. Even those that may have some defect are worked on and improved to make their fruit better. Most good trees bearing good fruit, though, do so because they’ve been grafted onto root stock of another, more faithful tree. They don’t remember this, but instead attribute their good fruit to themselves, remembering only this, “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit.” All the same, however good they are, they can be attacked by blight, and their fruit can become corrupt. This happens. Even a good tree is sometimes overcome by disease, often catching it from other trees that likewise may be good. And whose fault is it when this happens? Can the tree be blamed?

The fact remains, there is a law of cause and effect that is part of the reality of this world. If you plant seed, you get the plant that grows from that seed. If you want an apple tree you don’t plant an acorn. The kind of tree you have dictates the kind of fruit you get. “Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thorn bushes, or grapes from briers” (Luke 6:44). When your life doesn’t seem to have turned out the way you had hoped, for better or for worse you have had a hand in making it what it is. Even though others have impacted your decisions, you still made them, and so you have to suffer or enjoy the consequences. We find ourselves in a world where “Abraham cannot deliver Ishmael, [and] Isaac cannot deliver Esau” (Talmud, Sanhedrin 104a). We have to face the facts of our lives, and about ourselves, knowing that “No good tree bears bad fruit,” and wait for the mercy of God to be shown us, patiently but confidently. Why? Because “there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known.” This revelation will be the mending of all that is broken, and the healing of every disease in the trees that stand.

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