An observation I had in reading a fellow Christian blog.
In Deuteronomy, we have the Ten Commandments, as well as various others. In the New Testament, there are many, many places where we are commanded to do something. Christianity is full of commandments; full of rules.
Well… not really.
See, that’s just how we see things. We’re so used to thinking that everything is about what we do. We’re taught from a young age that success is about wealth, fame, and then occasionally self-satisfaction sneaks its way onto the list. Even when we grow up we’re told everyday in the omnipresent news that the most successful people are people like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs… excuse me while I go brush up on my pop culture… Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGeneres, Steven Spielberg, or your pick of action movie, comedy, or romance movie actor. It’s not who these people are underneath, but what they do that defines them.
Of course, in our minds we know better. We know that that little saying of Bruce’s is completely counter to a Christian view of things, and yet we continue to place value in what we do rather than who we are. We measure ourselves against others. We have people around us who we say “At least I’m not like them” about. Again, rationally we know this isn’t how we should be thinking, but it’s how we end up thinking anyway. It’s a part of human, sinful nature.
Now, I’ve been ranting against caring what people do for a while now. Does it not matter what we do, then? Of course not, don’t be silly. If what matters is who we are underneath, then if someone does something bad, then they are bad underneath. To use an analogy from the Bible, “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit” (Matthew 7:18, NIV). Commandments are not meant to tell us what to do. Commandments are meant to show us our withered branches. They show us where we fall short.
So how do we cause our branches to flourish? We can’t just do good things all the time and hope that will fix things. That would be like taping good fruit to a bad tree, a practice everyone can agree is silly. What we need is a higher power that could heal our withered hearts… “But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit” (Jeremiah 17: 7-8, NIV).
Without God, we can only be facades of goodness. We may appear good from the outside, rushing around and attaching good fruit to our branches, but only through God will we produce good fruit naturally. And what’s the point of good fruit thrown onto a bad tree? The tree will still produce the bad fruit, and every now and then, people will see through the facade and see the withered, sickly branches of the heart. A good tree who trusts in God and is in a personal relationship with Him has no need to hide their withered branches. We’re not perfect, but God is working on our imperfections. We can see them through the commandments He gave us, and we can give them to Him to restore to healthy, good branches to allow us to have a deeper relationship with Him, allowing Him to work on more of our withered branches. It’s a never-ending cycle of awesome God-ness.