As I mentioned last week, we are in the midst of blackberry season here at the parsonage. Every couple of days, I head out to the edge of the woods and pick another quart or so of berries. (We’re always up for sharing, these, by the way – if you’d like some, just let us know!) This summer, I’ve taken the opportunity to watch these plants and the growth and development of their fruit. I’ve learned a lot, and you probably won’t be surprised to hear that I see some connections between this blackberry business and our walk as disciples of Christ.
When picking berries, you have to watch out for thorns. These plants have a natural defense system that can be a bit painful for the careless berry picker. The thorns often dig into my jeans and my shirt, and I’m glad to take the time to pull them away from my clothing because I realize I don’t have to pull them out of my skin. Patience, persistence, and careful attention to the task at hand are some of the benefits of practicing this discipline. How often do we as followers of Christ need to learn these things? While we work to harvest good crops (that means other people) for the Lord, we may be stuck by thorns, but the harvest still awaits!
I’ve been surprised by some plants that have been broken or damaged in the past. Even though a plant is weakened and literally bends at a 90 degree angle, it can still produce good fruit. Sometimes the fruit is of lower quality than the completely healthy plants, but sometimes the fruit is perfect. Who among us is without breaks or cracks in our personal histories? If God can cause a broken blackberry plant to produce good fruit (even though the break is obvious to everyone), then he surely can help a broken person to walk in faith and produce good fruit as well.
Finally, our blackberry plants have to compete with a few other plants for space, nutrients, and sunlight. One vine in particular is very good at wrapping itself around other plants and growing very quickly. I’ve had to pull out some of these vines in order to get to the good plants. Several weeks ago, I commented in our Sunday morning service that I couldn’t tell weed from good plant – but now I certainly can! Once the fruit appears, it’s very easy to know which plant is which. That reminds me of some words of Jesus:
“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.” (Matthew 7:15-20 NIV)
Friends, bear good fruit for the Lord. Watch out for worldly influences that do not reflect Christ’s character. Allow the Lord to form, shape, prune, and cultivate you so that his harvest will be great.