This past week 24 people from Gator Wesley served with Pura Vida Ministries in San Jose, Costa Rica. The theme was “Abide” and focused on John 15:1-17. If you haven’t read this passage in a while, check it out. It has all sorts of nuggets of wisdom and good food for thought.
Verse 2 has particularly struck me saying, “He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit.” I don’t know about you but I’m not always a fan of people removing things or pruning when it doesn’t fit into my schedule or what I think is good for me. Some of the control freak in me wants to know the who’s, what’s, and why’s of pruning and all of the intricate details so that I can fully analyze the situation. Getting negative feedback or personal criticism isn’t something that makes us feel good. It often hurts. It can seem callous and cold or completely unmerited. It can also be our natural inclination to rationalize and push it to the side and not want to move forward. There are times when we need to shake it off and consider the source, but there are also times when people point out blind spots or things that we’ve been wrestling with and trying to name and figure out. This is still often uncomfortable and hurtful to hear out loud, but it also is a growing edge.
That’s the thing that I like about this passage. Jesus is not just randomly removing branches or tearing us down. Jesus isn’t haphazardly pruning a little bit here and a little bit there with no rhyme or reason. It’s not like when I try to cut Enoch’s hair thanking God that it’s curly enough that even if I completely mess up, it will be camouflaged enough that people won’t notice. Jesus removes and prunes so that we bear more fruit. It’s not pruning to criticize or punish or intentionally wound, it’s pruning to make us stronger and more reliant on him and his love.
To make sure that we know that this isn’t about us not being good enough, Jesus says in verse 3, “You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you.” The definition of cleansed is “To free from dirt, defilement, or guilt; purge or clean.” So it’s not about us measuring up to unreachable goals, it’s about abiding in the love of Christ so that we can be in tune enough with the Spirit that we can tell the difference between needed pruning and the roar of the world around us. It’s letting God lead us to a place where we make a home with God – leaning on God’s grace, truth, discernment and strength.
This pruning is so that God may be glorified and that we bear much fruit and become disciples (verse 8). Sometimes correction, facing consequences, and hearing a hard truth is for our own good and our own growth. We want our communities to grow and thrive and we want the world to recognize us as disciples of Christ. As we look at pruning others may we look to the rest of the passage as we “love one another as I (Jesus) have loved you” (verse 12). May we prayerfully speak in love and hear in love. May we surround ourselves with people that really know us and truly love us. A community that, “knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words.” May we also realize that Jesus is one of these friends that wants us to dwell and abide in him, to keep his commandments and draw joy from that, to love one another, and to realize that he has chosen us and continues to want the very best for us.
*The video is Jame Grace’s “You Lead.” I appreciate that it lifts up that no matter how much the world is pushing or pulling, we are led by God in this crazy journey called life.