I have to confess I don’t really know a great deal about gardening. I’m allergic to most things in a garden so that has been a big barrier to me learning how to grow things. I certainly don’t have an innate ability to look after plants. I don’t know what the opposite of green fingers is, but I have it. I can even kill a cactus!
Even with my lack of knowledge and ability, there is one thing I know about plants. Fruit plants are supposed to produce fruit. Apple trees should produce apples; blackberry bushes should produce blackberries and so on.
Well, the same is true of the Christian life. Christians are supposed to produce Christian fruit in our lives. If we are a Christian and we are not producing gospel fruit then that could be sign that something is wrong.
To help us see this, Jesus uses a particular fruiting plant – the vine – to show us how things should be:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” (John 15:1–2)
Christians are supposed to bear fruit. Just as a vine is supposed to produce grapes, so we are supposed to produce fruit – a transformed life, transformed relationships and transformed desires.
It’s a very simple picture isn’t it? A fruit bearing vine is good. A vine which bears no fruit is bad, not really useful for anything other than firewood.
Imagine if you went to the supermarket and bought some grapes. When you got home and opened the packet, all you found were stalks and no grapes. You wouldn’t be very happy would you? That’s not what you wanted.
Being a Christian should produce fruit in our lives. Being a Christian is supposed to have a transformative effect on the way we act, think, desire, plan, live. It is meant to make a difference.
So how are you feeling today? Are you feeling fruity? Are you feeling productive? Or are you feeling a bit woody, a bit stalky, a bit like a vine with little fruit?
Jesus’ aim is not to make us feel guilty for being less fruitful that we might like. Instead it is to point us in the right direction to bear fruit.
The danger with a passage like this is that I can read it and think I need to be more fruitful. So I get into action and do all the things I think make up Christian fruit. I work hard and try to do it all in my own effort.
Trouble is, that’s a bit like taking the empty stalk in my grape packet and thinking there should be fruit on it. So I get some grapes and starting sticking them on with sellotape. It’s the right idea, but utterly the wrong way to go about it. That’s not how fruit grows!
Instead, that stalk needs to be connected to the vine in order to produce fruit. Only when it is getting its nutrients, strength and life from the vine that it can grow juicy delicious fruit again.
So it is with us. If we hear this passage and try to produce fruit in our own effort and our own strength, it will fail. It’s like stapling apples onto an apple tree.
Instead we need to be connected to the vine, and that vine is Jesus. Only when we are connected to him, to his power, his Spirit, his life, are we able to produce fruit as Christians.
So, are you feeling fruitful as a Christian today? If not, don’t feel guilty. Instead, come back in connection with the vine once more. Is there a way in which you can reconnect with Jesus, the true vine, today?