The Vine of Christ
“I am the vine, and you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing… As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.” (John 15:5,9)
I think of these verses from the Gospel of John, especially as we enter into the Summer months. I see people planting their gardens, caring for their lawns, and beautifying their homes. We put forth much effort in giving attention to our properties, but what about our own spiritual lives? These verses from the Gospel of John are not about vines and branches, but point us to the essence of the Christian life.
Our faith is all about a relationship in which we are connected with God at all times. When we are connected with Him, we find life. When we are cut off from Him, we experience death. We must take care not to forget this relationship with God. He is the source of life! When we separate ourselves from Him, once we cut our branch off from Jesus the vine, then there is only one consequence - the branch will wither and die, just as our souls will grow distant from their Creator and slowly shrivel and waste away.
With these words, Jesus reminds us, nudges us, calls to us, longs for us, and even pursues us each and every day. He loves us so much, that he won’t leave us along. He wants to unite with us. Yet, at the same time He respects our freedom. He comes to us daily in countless ways, gently knocking at the door of our heart, but then waits for us to freely open it up and invite Him in. When we chose to open our heart, He joyously enters in and gladly dwells with us. When we chose to ignore Him, He doesn’t get angry or upset, but He simply and patiently waits.
Of course, we must remember that God isn’t motivated by any human desire or need. His motivation is pure and simple - He waits for us because of His unconditional and unfathomable love. He created us. He brought us to life. He has an ultimate plan that will bring us complete joy and fulfillment. And He passionately loves us and longs to be with us! Remember, He is our Creator, our God, and our heavenly Father.
When and if we do accept His invitation to enter into our heart, then an immediate consequence occurs - we will bear fruit, an abundance of spiritual fruit. This is the most definite way of understanding whether one authentically walks with Christ or not - by the fruit of our lives. And what is this fruit that we will bear if we abide in Christ? St. Paul beautifully describes it as the fruit of the Spirit - “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility and self-control.” These holy virtues will be clearly seen in our lives. A deep joy that no earthly challenge can take away. A peace that passes all human understanding. A love that transcends any boundaries or limits. A kindness and goodness that touch every person we meet. A humility that understands that the root of all goodness comes from God Himself.
Other apparent fruit will be the spirit of mercy, kindness and compassion towards others, especially towards those in need; our readiness to forgive and reconcile with one another, even with our worst enemies; our attitude of continual repentance, where we daily evaluate and judge ourselves in light of the Gospel and then unceasingly strive to turn back towards God. The fruit of a vibrant and living relationship with God will surely include a generous heart towards others. Jesus taught us how it is more blessed to give than to receive. When we abide outside of a relationship with God, we cynically question this attitude. Yet, when we authentically have Christ dwelling in us, we adopt the “mind of Christ” which has no self-centeredness within it.
Just as our Lord gave abundantly and freely, we will find ultimate joy in doing the same. Jesus didn’t count the cost, but found delight in giving freely and giving THE VINE OF CHRIST richly. In fact, He emphasized that no one can show greater love than actually giving all that we have for others, including one’s own life.
So the fruit of generously giving of our time, our talents, our treasure, and our life itself is a clear sign that God dwells within us. As Orthodox Christians and followers of Jesus Christ, we must learn to understand that our central purpose in life is to stay connected with God and to bear the fruit described above for His name’s sake, for His glory. “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit My Father takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” (John 15:2)
If we are not bearing Spirit-filled fruit in our lives, the time will come when God will “gather the withered branches and throw them into the fire, where they will be burned” (John 15:6) And even if we do see signs of genuine fruit in our lives, we should never become complacent or content.
The spiritual life is all about a continual pruning process, where even a good branch is pruned to bear more and more fruit. There is never an end to the blessed fruit we can produce and with which we can glory God’s holy name! As we work in our gardens and out in the lawn this summer, let us always remember the garden of our heart, and strive to harvest a rich crop of abundant fruit, all for the glory of God!
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The life of the Orthodox Church perpetuates and fulfills the ministry of Jesus Christ. The close association between Christ and His Church is reflected in the images from the Scriptures which declare that Christ is the Head and the Church is His Body, and that Christ is the Bridegroom and the Church is His bride. Learn more»