Picture this scene with me. There is a tree in the woods, it was knocked down years ago and now it is just a rotting log. The inside is hollowed out, there might even be some animals living in it. Now someone comes up and sees this tree, and they get rather upset that the tree doesn’t have any fruit on it. They see a branch that has fallen off of the dead tree, and they frantically try to re-attach the branch, saying it was what was best for the tree. It was what the tree needed.
If we saw this happening, we would think that the person in this story was completely insane. You can’t fix a dead tree by re-attaching its branches! Nor is it expected that a dead tree would be bearing fruit. We would lock this person up in a mental asylum!
But before we put them in a straight jacket, let’s pause and consider something. How often do we do this with people? We see our unsaved friends living like the world, and we get upset that they aren’t living like Christians. We should not expect people who don’t know Jesus to want to reflect Him. Or we see our friends from church, and they are dealing with a sin.
I am speaking for myself here, but I believe that this is true for many of us. We are so quick to notice dead branches, or a lack of fruit, and immediately we assume that the problem can be solved by gluing fruit onto the branches, or trying to re-attach those branches. Lack of fruit and dead branches are a completely normal thing to see when a tree isn’t attached to its roots. If the tree isn’t in the ground, the problem isn’t that there is no fruit! The problem is that it isn’t planted!
We all need to be planted in Christ, every aspect of our life will flow directly from our relationship with Him. When we notice an area that isn’t right, dead branches in our lives or in the life of someone around us, I think it’s vital that we look past the branches to the roots. If the roots aren’t attached, we have found our problem.
Lack of fruit is still cause for concern in a Christian, as are dead branches. But those problems rarely cause themselves, and if we aren’t willing to look past what we see and get to the root issue, we won’t help anyone.
Jesus talks about something similar in John 15:1-11
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine dresser. 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. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 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. 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. 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. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 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. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”