We need to be able to say “I can’t do anything right a part from Jesus.” If you can’t say that there’s something wrong.
It’s taken me years to make that statement. I am a fiercely independent person. I hold onto my abilities (real or imagined) with an iron fist. I am quick to tackle a project if I even have an inkling of hope that I can accomplish it. That’s why when I read John 15.5 I was shaken. “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” Really Jesus? Nothing at all? The argumentative piece in me wants to get technical. I can’t breathe without you? I can’t eat and digest without you? But those questions miss the point. Besides, didn’t He have just a little something to do with the design of our bodies?
John 15 is all about relationships: our relationship with God and our relationships with each other. Jesus is talking about our purpose and our makeup here. He says we were never designed to produce good fruit, the argument the independent parts of me try to fight on a daily basis. I like to think that I can do good things all by myself…but I simply cannot. What I can do is hang onto the good things Jesus produces in me. In this conversation Jesus has with His friends He says if we remain in Him He will produce joy, obedience and love in us. Paul expands this list quite a bit in the letter to the Church in Galatia. But the greatest fruit Jesus will ever produce in us is other lives.
This fruit that we bear is magnetic by its very nature. People see it and they recognize deep down inside themselves something they, too, were meant to carry. Others are drawn to someone who loves unselfishly, willingly lays down his life and has joy beyond reason. Love is the root of this magnetic fruit.
Loving Jesus means we automatically have a deep love in us for those around us, especially for the Church. There should be a tender spot in us that hurts for the hurting, grieves with the grieving, celebrates with those who shout and walks with those who are learning how. As one big organism, the Church moves in exactly the same way. We love each other and those around us the way Jesus loves us. I hear people say often “the only thing wrong with the church is the people in it!” I get it. They’ve been hurt, lied to and kicked around. The church should never represent itself as a bunch of perfect people who have it all together. If we are anything we are a group of struggling souls who have found, by God’s grace, the source to and meaning of life. The reason we gather is not to protect ourselves from the world but to breathe. We are here because we have found we cannot survive otherwise. We’ve also discovered life with Christ is the most satisfying life on earth. We don’t just survive here. We thrive! When I hear people’s disdain for the Body, I know they’ve been hurt but I also know they’ve never tasted the deep love of God. If they had they would be quicker to step inside a relationship with others who love Him.
I want you to hear me here. This love is something that grows and is compounded as we come together. It was never meant to just be exhibited on an individual basis. It was always meant to be carried out as a Body. The world will rarely look at us and say “That guy looks like Jesus.” When they see the big picture our lives offer that should be the response, but our sin will most often be the thing that catches people’s attention on the spot. But the Church is a different story. Sure people can dig and find less-than-Christ things out about us. But the first thing our neighbors, those who know us, should think when they see us is “Jesus.” There is no doubt this is the defining mark of the Body of believers.
If that statement is true then we must make this statement as well: If we cannot stand someone in the Body it says much more about our love for God than it does the person we dislike. John says in one of his later letters that it is impossible for a man to say he loves God and hates his brother. He says the one who says that is a liar and the truth of God is not in him.
I hope it is beginning to sink in that you and I can’t do anything right apart from Jesus. I also hope this second truth is starting to take root: anything done apart from Jesus is hatred toward God. The most obvious way this hatred plays out is in our relationships with each other. Rarely will we cuss God. Often will we spew language and broken actions on those around us; those we say we love.
I don’t say these things to hurt you or slow you in your walk with Jesus. Quite the contrary, I’ve discovered these truths to be hugely motivating for me in my walk and in the lives of those I lead. I pray they serve you in the same way. I know they will. That’s what truth does. It helps us become what we were designed to be in the first place. Which, by the way, is something we would never recognize if Jesus hadn’t first shown us how!