The grace of Jesus Christ extends much farther than we could every dream or imagine.
The past two weeks have been harrowing for my family. We have faced unbelievable waves of adversity; and Saturday I was in despair because I felt that my response to the circumstances that hit our home with hurricane force was not correct.
I cried out to God, begging for forgiveness that I hadn’t responded in a manner I felt others may expect of me – a believer who has walked with Jesus for nearly 40 years.
And I was reminded that the fruit of spirit – the evidence of ones abiding relationship with Jesus Christ – is not a sign that you have arrived, or even fully matured. It is not a sign that you can now be elevated to a status of one who ought to be admired and emulated. Just the same, not displaying all of the fruits of the spirit is not evidence that one is not growing or cultivating an abiding relationship with Jesus Christ.
I was struck this week as I read Wednesday’s Good Morning Girl’s passage in Luke 13:
We hear the oft-quoted verse “by their fruits you shall know them” – which Jesus actually said in reference to false prophets, not to followers of Christ and certainly not in reference to new believers.
In fact, Jesus here was warning us that often as mature believers we grow impatient with new believers, or even those we think should be more “mature”. He used the illustration of a fig tree.
Now – I don’t know much about fig trees; but we planted 4 trees recently: an apple tree, 2 cheery trees, and a plum tree. Funny thing: we won’t get any fruit from those trees at all for about 4-5 years. Sure, we see leaves and our apple tree is even getting some blooms. But even if we do get fruit soon, it wont be big enough to eat.
What’s more, some trees take longer to bear edible fruit than others.
But this doesn’t mean our trees aren’t any good. It doesn’t mean that they are not healthy or growing. It simply means that we need to be patient; we need to cultivate our trees and fertilize them. If we tend to them properly they will eventually have the kind of fruit we can pick and eat.
I have meditated on this passage ever since I read it last week and I was reminded of something more.
I have heard a lot of people use Jesus, John the Baptist and some of the Apostles as examples of how they criticized and condemned the Pharisees. And I was suddenly struck by something I had never realized before:
They were not criticizing religious followers, they were criticizing religious leaders. Those who were supposed to be cultivating ones who sought to follow God; they were insulting those who were supposed to be tending them and inducing spiritual growth in their lives. But rather than being the “keepers” they were called to be, they were actually preventing that growth. Not only were they were preventing growth, they were creating an environment in which proper growth simply could not occur.
They were interpreters of the law – but by interpreting the law they created all kinds of man-made laws that never actually existed in the law given by God. What is worse, they forced their followers to keep their laws, while finding ways to get out of having to keep them themselves.
And Jesus was condemning these false interpreters of the law for not being the “keepers of the vineyard” they were called to be; while encouraging us to extend grace to each other, be patient with one another, cultivate each other, encourage each other, and truly love the body of Christ with the same love that He loved those He came to serve.
He extended love and grace; forgiveness and redemption; healing and freedom. He was patient and kind.
And as these truths trickled over my spirit like a refreshing stream, I was awakened to yet another dimension of God’s grace and love; not just for me, but for my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who will sometimes miss the mark, who will not always display the fruits of the spirit, and who will sometimes respond incorrectly in certain situations. And when refreshing streams of grace flow freely among us, our local bodies will thrive and grow and the world will know we are His disciples because of that love and grace we freely extend to one another.
May the everlasting grace of Christ flow through me today as a blessing to those I am called to serve!