Matthew 7:16 – Jesus said, "By their fruit you will recognize them." (NIV)
What does this mean? We could use it in many contexts. I was sitting, sipping my tea, and reflecting on an older movie that I have in my entertainment library, starring James Garner and Larry Fishburne, called "Decoration Day". It is the story of a retired judge who unwittingly becomes involved in defending the rights of a World War II veteran who was refusing to accept his medal. Although I love this particular movie because of its depiction of brotherly love, the real reflection that I had concerned the dialogue that happens on a regular basis between Garner's character, Albert Finch, and his cook/housekeeper. They have feisty conversations indeed, but it is easy to see that they like each other very much. I might presume to say that they have even grown to love like family. Things are not always as they seem. "By their fruit you will recognize them."
Recently, I felt that a family member was being unkind and heartless, grumbling and complaining to me. For a few days, I had a pity party and mourned about it, and then, this person surprised me when I found out that she was doing me a great service despite our argumentative words. Yes, I felt remorse! When things look negative, take another look!
Another encounter took place the same week, when, from another family member, I received comments that I perceived as unloving and insulting. Anger and retaliation ensued. Two days later, this person did me a very great favour when I was desperate. "By their fruit you will recognize them."
Could it be that some of this was my fault? No, never, I reply! But seriously, I have to admit that I have a certain amount of stubbornness. Let's admit it, folks: we all have some weaknesses. No one is perfect but God. As Paul said,
Romans 7:15-16 – I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. (NIV)
Let us recall the parable Jesus told in Matthew 21:28-31 about the father who asked his sons to work in the vineyard. The first son said, "I will not," but later he changed his mind and went. The second son said he would, but he didn't go. "By their fruit you will recognize them" is the lesson that Jesus was teaching us. When we are down and out and we need a brother's hand, from whence does it come? Treading lightly, not offending each other, and speaking with kindness is, indeed, the more preferred way. However, the reality is that sometimes we are just plain tired and cranky. We are apt to say the meanest things at times under certain circumstances. But just let a brother or sister be in trouble or sincerely need our help, then who is right there? We are all family in this world. Just as in all good families, we try to do our part in the building up of love among us. Therefore, we can contribute to making our worldly family very solid with an unshakable foundation.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 – Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (NIV)
Prayer: Dear heavenly Father, You created this world out of love, and You want love and peace to be propagated on the earth among all Your people. Help us to learn to be more conscious of each other's feelings as we travel together on our pilgrimage to heaven. If in a moment of anger or worry, we sometimes lash out at each other, help us to obtain Your forgiveness and that of the offended person. May we be willing to say that we are sorry when we have wronged someone. In Your mercy, remind us of the parable You gave us. May we discern the fruit of knowing who truly loves us. Grant us the ability to see the gift that You have given us of love in all its forms. Amen.
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Listen while you read: "At Even When The Sun Was Set" (Lyrics)