Matthew 7:16 (NIV)
By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?
Have you ever wondered whether or not you are making a difference in this world? Do you find yourself often discouraged and at times shocked about your lack of zeal? Has this question ever haunted the recesses of your mind: "Do people see Christ in me?"
The answer is simple and is summarized in today's Bible verse: "By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?" (Matthew 7:16, NIV)
But what if fruit is not forthcoming?
Then we should meditate on these very words Jesus pronounced: "Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth." (1 John 3:18, NIV2)
As long as we remain in only an intellectual understanding of Christ, we will never be satisfied. Words are nice, but they are worthless when compared to genuine love. The ones who shine for Christ are not those who talk about God (Pharisees talked about God a lot and see what they did to His Son!), but are those who follow the footsteps of Jesus and love like He does. After all, Christianity can all be summed up in the word "love". If love is non-existent in us, we don't know Jesus personally! (See 1 John 5:2)
Only if we decide to start loving others unselfishly will we begin to have a purpose in life, and this is a consequence of knowing Jesus intimately. People will notice that we have encountered the One named love (Jesus). "In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." (Matthew 5:16, NIV2)
During World War II the Nazis turned Russian prisoners into slave workers. Their living conditions were atrocious and they barely received any food. None of them could last very long. If they made it through an entire year, they were the lucky ones. Hopeless and discouraged, these slaves often tried to escape. And why not? They were going to die anyway!
The Nazis threatened severe punishments to anyone who offered aid to these slaves. What would we do if we lived in Jersey, for example, and we encountered such a fugitive?
Would we denounce him?
No, we are not that kind of people!
Maybe we would give him some well-meant advice?
But that wouldn't really be of any help to him, would it!
Would we consider sheltering him?
Louisa Gould did. She sheltered Feodor Burriy, known also as "Bill", for a period of two years! Imagine the drain on her food resources! Already she was living with very little. Still, she couldn't help but reach out to this hopeless man.
In May 1944 she and her family were denounced. Her brother survived the cruelties of Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, but Louisa perished in the gas chambers of Ravensbruck in February 1945.
And what of Bill? Thanks to this caring family, he was able to escape.
Would they have done differently if they had known they would end up in a concentration camp? Not if they were motivated by genuine love, for genuine love does not make exceptions! Genuine love would have still helped that poor slave worker with no hesitation whatsoever.
Louise and her family were not the only ones who helped fugitive slaves. On March 1966, the USSR presented gold watches to twenty of the Jersey islanders for their compassion towards these Russian slave workers.
If we had lived in Jersey during World War II, would we have been amongst the recipients of those gold watches?
The problem is, love can never be genuine if it doesn't come directly from God: "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful." (John 15:1-2, NIV2) We have to be willing to be open vessels for the glory of God. We must depend solely on the One who is our gardener. After all, He is the only One who can help us become "even more fruitful".
I close with this charge from the Bible. "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." 1 Corinthians 10:31 (NIV)
Dear Lord, Help our ears and eyes be open and our hearts be open to help those around us. Help it be our goal today to do everything for Your glory. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.