“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine dresser. 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.
Questioning the Vine
Jesus is the Vine. I get that. The Father is the Vine Dresser. So far so good. After that this passage raises a lot of questions for me. When do we see clearly if the fruit that we develop is from God? All gifts, talents and abilities come from God. Usain Bolt is very fast. His speed is a gift from God. However, Jesus must be talking about something exceptional, here, by which his own disciples will be recognized. He has just been talking to his disciples about the Holy Spirit and how he will empower and illuminate the disciples. This fruit could be related to the list that Paul gives in Galatians 5:
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
The passage these verses are nestled in talk about the works of the flesh which are produced by satisfying our flesh and the fruit of the Spirit. It seems in the passage above there is an abiding in Christ that is synonymous with walking in the Spirit. We abide in Christ through the Spirit. So how do I know if the fruit is present? I see my love for others increase, and more importantly my love for God. If I ask myself whether my love for God has increased, I can say,”Yes.” However, it is a weak yes and not a bold one. I have found God’s love and grace to have led me into wellness and strength. I am grateful, but my love in this regard seems selfish. It is therapeutic. I feel more of my love for God when I see him do something favourable to me. What I must see more clearly is that The Father, Jesus, and The Holy Spirit must be worshiped and adored for who they are. I praise God easily enough. He is big. He is powerful. However, how can I be sure that I am ascribing worth to him with a devoted heart?
This exercise in reading John has been a counter to the therapeutic love that is a self-serving parasite in the branches which hang limply on the vine. To be in the vine means to be embedded in it and flourishing. The Christians of today are not known for the exceptional nature of their love, joy, peace … In fact we are known more in the West as homophobic, anti-intellectual, and intolerant. Why don’t people see in us the fruit of the Spirit? We could say, as many fundamentalists do, that the darkened world can not see our light. They hate us because of our impurity. However, might they just hate us because of self-serving fruit that rots on the vine?
How has the Father loved the Son? How has the Son loved his disciples? What does it mean to abide in this love? How do I accept that I am accepted unconditionally? How does love address unconditionally accepting people but sincerely desiring good changes for them?
I sign off now with an image of being embraced in community. The community reflects Christ and accepts me unconditionally and I learn to accept myself without condition. Within such joyful freedom, I then can address the impurity in my life without fear and I can go to the Vine Dresser more easily to shape me as he wishes. Joy erupts as I see us all change. Freedom is finally found when I am free from self-concerns, but I use God’s gifting in the Holy Spirit, through me, to think only of him and of others.
Oh God, to love and be loved! What a journey. We immerse ourselves in you and your life grows in us. We bring fruit to a starving world when we bind ourselves to you. Let is abide in you and let your fruit develop.
- How does Jesus identify himself?
- What does that mean?
- How are his disciples to maintain their joy?
- How does today’s church assess whether they have fruit?
- What can you do to increase the flourishing of fruit in your life?