To Bear Fruit Musings about abiding in the vine

The Red Vineyard by Vincent Van Gogh, 1888
The Red Vineyard by Vincent Van Gogh, 1888

I tend to find myself asking this question again and again: am I doing what I’m supposed to be doing in life?

When I was younger I knew I had to study well so I could graduate and enter the next level. The goal was simple and clear. But next step was harder: picking a career. That one was scarier because there doesn’t seem to be a correct answer one could be 100% sure about. Having options can be a scary thing. Where to work, who to pursue a relationship with, where to go to church, where to invest your time and money, what project to accept, whether to agree or disagree with your boss. I often wondered why God couldn’t just give us two options each time. Why couldn’t just be a clear right and clear wrong, black and white?

The first sensible thing I could do was to take a step back and evaluate my overarching goals in life in to see if I’m doing what I had to be doing in life. As a Christian, the correct goal seems obvious: to make God happy. To be honest though, my goals were centered towards achieving my own taste of happiness. Not that I didn’t want God to be happy. In fact, I try to make God’s happiness my primary motivation in life. But the truth is, my decisions are usually motivated by what I believe will make me happy.

In John 15, Jesus explains that living according to God’s will and experiencing joy go hand in hand. He says that Jesus is the vine in which we, the branches, should always be connected to. God is the vinedresser that makes sure that we’re growing well and producing fruit. He goes on to tell us that desire of God is for the branches is to produce fruit. That if we disconnect from Jesus, the vine, we stop producing fruit and are thrown away. Jesus goes on to say that he explains these things so that “…My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”

In its simplest terms, the steps to making God and ourselves happy are to be in close relationship with Jesus, and then bear fruit out of that intimacy. I lived much of my Christian life trying to abide by this and measuring my walk by how much “fruit” I could produce. The problem was I never really understood what Jesus meant by fruit. I assumed that fruit meant “converts.” Yes, we’re called to spread the good news of Jesus’s coming. How He took the place of covering for our brokenness so that we can all be in good standing with God, experience the benefits of a relationship with Him, and ultimately end up in His Kingdom. Though we are definitely called to do this, “converting” people has never been the way to go. In fact, the mission to “convert” has led to so much bloodshed in the history of the world and so much brokenness in the history of the church.

I realized that the story of Jesus and His purpose must be told but not out of pride and self-righteousness. To know and understand what to bear fruit means will help us express God’s message in a better kind of light.

When I was asked to speak on the topic of joy weeks ago, it was the first time I sat down to really question my understanding of what a fruit is. Here is what I learned.

A fruit is something that is good and beneficial for something other than the branch and tree that produced it. It is a product of a selfless Creator. When a fruit has fully matured it can fall to the ground and make another tree or it can be picked and eaten for the nourishment of something other than itself.

We are called to love others selflessly. Selfless love is the fruit that ultimately brings God and ourselves joy. The reality is that having options in life is a blessing from God. It gives the freedom to express our unique selves and experience the excitement that life offers. Our options in life are fruits produced and selflessly given to us by God. They give us the opportunity to bear fruit for the benefit of others. We’re only asked to avoid one tree, the one that is rooted in self-centredness.

Featured painting:
The Red Vineyards near Arles. Vincent Van Gogh, oil on canvas, 1888.