Matthew 15:16a “By their fruit you will recognize them.“
A tree is judged according to the fruit it produces. I am not a horticulturist, nor I am a gardener, or a agriculturist. I cannot always tell what kind of tree is the tree until I’ve seen the fruit that it produces. Imagine walking into a forest or a jungle and given a quiz to name a tree just by looking at it. I will not hesitate to say that I will fail at it. Terribly. The only way I can name a tree is if I can see the fruits. If I see that next to a tree is some apples, then I’ll know it is an apple tree. If I see some mangoes then I will know it is a mango tree. It is as simple as that! Now imagine yourself walking into a fruit market. It should be too easy to name all the fruits you see there. The reason I am unable to name the trees is simple. It is because I never bothered to find out from guide books, or textbooks or the many helpful resources out there. I believe that’s the way it is for those who do not know God to know Him.
To the uninformed, they usually view God as a being that’s disconnected. They may think that God is amusing Himself sitting in heaven while watching us suffer on earth. Just like me who know nothing about trees until I made a conscious and intentional effort to learn, I can sympathize with them for finding God unfamiliar. One of the way they could find out about God is by observing us, the so-called Christian, who proclaim ourselves children of God. If we are His offsprings and are of Him, surely they can infer a few things about God’s character and qualities from our character and qualities. Surely this is what Jesus was talking about when he said in Matthew 15:17-18 “Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. Good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.”
If we behave properly and display good character, then it makes sense for observers to derive God’s character from our behavior. If I display lousy and terrible character, then that’s what they will infer. If I display integrity and good natured character, people will want to find out about God. If a tree began bearing bad fruits, I will definitely stay away from that tree. If a tree always bear good, sweet, juicy and succulent fruits, I will be all over the tree without prompting. Truly, as the old proverb says “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”.
There is another proverb which yields similar meaning to the above, that is “Like father, like son”. Any parents will be able to tell you that one of their greatest compliments in life is statements like these: “Your son looks so much like you.” Or when their children tried to imitate their every movement and behavior As a little boy, I can remember how excited my parents were every time I attempted to walk the way they walk, or talk the way they talk, or eat the way they eat. As I observed people with children, there is an expression of pure joy and laughter even at the slightest hint of imitation. No matter how many times they made mistakes and fail, the parents laugh and lovingly encouraged them to keep trying. The parents never get irritated or annoyed. Parents are also at their happiest moment with pride when their children set as their goal to become like their dads or their moms. Is it any wonder then, that Jesus said in Matthew 18:3 that to “enter the Kingdom of Heaven“, we will have to
“become like little children“?
God is looking at us the same way we look at our children imitating us. He wanted us to be like Him. Like His son, Jesus. He knew that the task was impossible, but He wanted us to try anyway. He urged us on when we felt inadequate. He encouraged us to try again when we fail. He is happy even at our slightest attempt for it. At every obstacle, He is always watching our moves. He will never allow us to face an obstacle that is impossible to overcome on our own. Yet He allowed us to take on slightly bigger challenges each time we conquered the previous one, holding our hands along the way. He never get irritated or annoyed, no matter how many times we fail.
On the other hand, it is the greatest insult, or hurt, for the parents when it is said of their children: “He looks nothing like his father”, or “She looks nothing like her mother”. Those are dreaded statements that no one wants to hear. Ever. I am sure that it hurts for the children to hear that too. People look at us, and they judge our God, whom we represent. Whose DNA we are supposed to bear. Whose genes are supposed to be found in our system. Whose blood runs through our veins. When we said the hurting words, did the un-Godly deeds, behave un-lovingly, how is that a true representative of Christ, that is supposed to be in us? Our words are supposed to be a creative power, yet we used it destructively. Our actions are supposed to help people, yet we used it for our own advantage.
We are unable to take back what we have said. It is also impossible to undone what we have done. It is futile to try to hide it and pretend it never happened. A scar will always be left, as a painful reminder of someone’s hurting past. The good news is that God never gave up on us. Not one second, not even a hint of thought. He kept urging us on, believing in us. God is all forgiving and is a God of second chance. God, our Father, faithfully waited on us until we finally arrived at the gates of heaven. He will then say the most beautiful words we have all waited in glorious anticipation, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
Discussion Question: What kind of “fruit” do you produce? Did you ever give up trying to emulate Jesus? How do you usually handle discouragement from your failure to be like Him? Please share them in the comments.