“I am the true vine, and my Father I the vineyard keeper. He removes any of my branches that don’t produce fruit, and he trims any branch that produces fruit so that it will produce even more fruit.” John 15:1-2 (CEB)
Ouch! I’m not sure I want to be “trimmed” and “pruned” like that! Yet, I know from my own experience that when I rid myself of bad habits and unhealthy choices, I am in a much better place. For years I was in a very unhealthy friendship that was oppressive and toxic, but I didn’t see it or realize it consciously. Others could see it and would try to tell me, but I refused to believe them.
When the friendship finally did end, it was extremely painful. Fortunately, I was able to find a counselor who helped me work through my feelings, and when I looked back on the years I spent around that person, I had to acknowledge that everyone else could see what was going on, but because I was entrenched in the friendship, I couldn’t see it. I realized that I was in a much better place having left that friend behind.
Of course, that is only one example of ways in which our lives need pruning. We tend to separate faith and life at times, and this reminder from Jesus to his disciples – including us – invites us to remember how important it is for us to be connected to him – and to each other. The connection with him is always open, always able to grow, and always growing, even though there are times when we have to prune away the things that get in the way of our connection with him.
It’s the same when we think of the connection we have with others. Healthy relationships need pruning through good communication, forgiveness, grace, and letting go of things that might keep us from being up front and loving with the other person or group or congregation. In churches, it is the stuff that needs pruning that blocks us from staying healthy with each other. When we learn to work through conflict, sort out our own feelings, ask for forgiveness, listen to others carefully and lovingly, accept that none of us is perfect and all stand in the need of God’s grace in Jesus, we actively prune so that our connections can be healthy and life-producing. That is bearing fruit.
When we are connected in healthy ways, we can minister to others knowing that we are following Jesus’ teachings and living in his ways. We are connected with him which then helps us connect with others.
1. Is there someone who needs our forgiveness and grace today?
2. How can we promote and build healthy relationships?
3. In what ways can our communication keep us connected?