I recently had an experience with a fellow Christian which left me somewhat disappointed. I want to tread careful over this, as have no wish to criticise them here. It has affected me though, and often it is helpful to write about such things. Yes, helpful for me to share my thoughts, but hopefully too helpful for you as a reader.
The details of what happened are not for sharing, but this individual acted in a way which surprised me. I hoped that they would give the benefit of the doubt in the situation, or at least be forgiving, but instead they opted to take offense and absolutely point blank refused to engage in the matter.
It really shook me, as I had hoped they would be more open, understanding and compassionate. It got me wondering about their relationship with the Lord, and my human nature started to pick out other not so Christian behaviour in their lives which I had observed…
Before I travel too far down this path and really do start to judge them, I turned the lens onto myself. In my head, I had started to examine the fruit of their lives and assessed them to be coming up wanting. As I did that, the Lord directed me to examine my own fruit and see how I stack up.
The truth is that we cannot know what is going on in another person’s heart. We can take a view by looking at the fruit of their lives, as Jesus directs us in Matthew 7:
By their fruits you will know them. Do you gather grapes from thorns or figs from thistles?Matthew 7:16 (WEB)
Essentially, He is saying that if you see oranges growing on an unknown tree, you can be pretty sure it’s an orange tree. Apples don’t grow on plum trees, nor do peaches on citrus trees. The point is that Christians should be bearing Christian fruit.
What is Christian fruit?
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, 23 gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.Galatians 5:22-23 (WEB)
This is the kind of fruit a Christian should be bearing. If someone looks at us, they should see us being kind, gentle or patient. If not, then they may not recognise us for who we are.
As above, I was shaken by the experience because I expected to see some of the fruits listed in Galatians 5 and did not. When such fruit was absent, I questioned the tree. This is not wrong to do, but does require us to tread very carefully.
Jesus also points out earlier on in Matthew 7:
Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but don’t consider the beam that is in your own eye?Matthew 7:3 (WEB)
I take from this that if I’m going to examine the fruit of others, I’d better make very sure mine is ripe and juicy!
Christians are not perfect, and never will be this side of heaven. There should be evidence of our changed lives though, and we cannot claim to be an apple tree if we produce no apples. Christians must produce fruit in keeping with repentance – see Matthew 3:8. We do not do so to earn our salvation, but rather to display it.
It is all too easy for me (and perhaps you too?) to criticise my Christian brethren if I do not see appropriate fruit in their lives. Can it be clearly seen in mine though? Is my fruit up to scratch?
Anyone can claim to be a Christian, but if they do not regularly display the fruit of the Spirit in their lives, we must ask where their heart is. If you have concerns, you should ask how much of a role they should play in your life, and church leaders must consider if such individuals should take positions of authority.
For ourselves, we must examine our own fruit carefully and frequently. If our relationship with Jesus is not reflected in our day-to-day choices, words and actions, then we must challenge ourselves about whether He really is Lord to us. If Christ is Lord, then we must submit to Him and follow His lead.
To put it another way, if you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be sufficient evidence to get a conviction?
The world has been truly disappointed by those who claimed to follow Christ, and yet did not demonstrate it by their actions. The world is watching the church, and ready and eager to point out when we make mistakes. While we may never be perfect, let each of us display the wonderful fruit of the Spirit and show the world what Christ has done in our lives.