On the Corner “Bearing Fruit”

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Robert Docter, Editor-In-Chief

Jesus loved metaphor. Much of his teaching drew upon this form. As we begin a new year, his metaphor of the vine and the branches, that contains aspects of strength and perseverance, of hope for the harvest, of commitment to growth, and of cautions in regard to sloth seems a good choice as we contemplate our goals for the future.

The test of all of us relates to our fruitfulness—do we bear fruit?


Jesus said:

I am the true vine, and my Father is the            

farmer. 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 NIV).

Live in me. Make your home in me just as I

do in you. In the same way that a branch

can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being

joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless

you are joined with me. I am the Vine, you

are the branches. When you’re joined with

me and I with you, the relation intimate

and organic, the harvest is sure to be

abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a            

thing… This is how my Father shows who

he is­—when you produce grapes, when you

mature as my disciples” (John 15:4–5, 8



And so …

We live in a vineyard.

The vines, row on row, have gratefully received their water and warmth from the skies and now their fruit bend low on their branches, ready for a gracious harvest.

These sumptuous fruit, now heavy and mature, hold a promise of moist succulence as tender bundles burden branches and dangle from thin stems. The weakest among them, unable to complete the process of their destiny, now decorate the soil as fodder for ground animals whose whole world consists of these vines.

In our efforts in the vineyard to be fruitful, we both nurture and are nurtured. Each of us has individual responsibility. Some sow, some reap and some gather. None coerce any more than we can order the vine to bring forth the fruit. Fruit comes with harvest. It is the product of rich soil, of a caring commitment by the farmer, and the willful production of love by the harvester. We do not bring the harvest. It simply arrives in its time as a gift of God and our caring ministry. We determine its dimensions.

Fruitfulness is not achieved in isolation. It is not the product of action. Spiritual fruitfulness requires a relationship with the Vine. He offers us sustenance as we harvest the fruit of our own branch—the fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

These are the characteristic of God. They can become criteria for self-examination.

I ask myself, what does my harvest look like? I shudder as, too often, I deny myself God’s joy by impatience that becomes unkindness and removes from me any aspect of peaceful serenity. My emotions have over-powered my rational action. I am out of balance in those moments—unfruitful.

How fruitful are you? Do you wish, like me, to be more fruitful?

Here’s how.

What God truly wants from us is a connection. We need to stay connected—to remain in him, for God wants us to bear fruit and to do so abundantly. This is how we reveal God’s glory.

Next, we must obey his other primary command—that we love one another the way he loves us.

You are my friends if you do what I

command. I no longer call you servants,

because a servant does not know his master’s

business. Instead, I have called you friends,

for everything that I learned from my Father

I have made known to you. You did not

choose me, but I chose you and appointed you

to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. …

This is my command: Love each other

(John 15:14-17 NIV).


So, God only asks for essential and far reaching acts from us—to love him fully, and to love one another. The first bolsters us internally and the second allows us to use that newfound strength to exercise otherness —a commitment to others that is deep and genuine and ongoing.

You say with me:  “Yeah, but that’s hard. It’s scary, and I’m hesitant about imposing myself on other people.”

Dwell on this. “Love casts out fear.”  Accepting this point makes it necessary for you to act on the empathic feelings that drive you. Feeling “with” someone—feeling their pain, sensing their confusion, understanding their desire—makes it possible for you to act.

The nature of that action may vary.  Maybe you’re not a “gatherer” in the vineyard of life. Maybe you’re not the initial communicator. Maybe you’ve tilled the soil or watered the seeds. Maybe you’re a sower—where you communicate love by the manner in which you conduct yourself—sharing a caring, uncritical and nonjudgmental word with someone—that communicates a genuine spirit. Maybe you’re a “harvester” showing acceptance and a friendly spirit. Maybe you help process the fruit as a teacher or as someone with a full personal prayer ministry.

Remember, however, the communication of love is revealed in the nature of the interpersonal relationship. You are a friend.

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