Friday, March 6, 2009

Apples and Oranges...

A Tree and Its Fruit
15"Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

21"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' 23Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!' Matthew 7:15-23 (NIV)

[A page from Emblematum Christianorum centuria / Emblemes Chrestiens (1584) by Georgette de Montenay. You can find the rest of it here. Caption: At once the unfavourable tree which cannot bring fruit to its cultivator is cast into the burning funeral pyre. Wicked people who profess Christ only with their mouths will be cut down from the bottom of the trunk and fall in the flames.]

Matthew 7 is loaded with all sorts of imagery that seems to boil down to this: what fruit do you bear? This chapter is quoted relentlessly by Christians for a variety of reasons but it is mostly quoted to support their own personal views and beliefs. Even Christian dueling scripture with Christian quote these verses to undermine the views of their opponent. I believe verses 18-20 summarizes the entire chapter; "Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them."

What are your fruits? Do others see you as hateful, mean-spirited, vindictive? Do they see you as loving, patient, and kind? Never mind what you believe or what rituals you partake in, but ask yourself what are the fruits of your character?

Belief, works, or a combination of both mean nothing if you produce spoiled fruit. You can believe all the "right" beliefs and do charitable acts but if it is done without Unconditional and Universal Love then you are just bearing "bad fruit". The fruit of a tree is a sign of life, creation, and rebirth. The good trees that Jesus spoke about are a metaphor for those who bear life-giving and loving personalities. Bad trees that do not produce life sustaining fruit are not worth keeping, so these are "thrown into the fire". This is not a description of Hell for the unbelievers but another metaphor for tossing out your negative attributes. Completely negative people are a drain to the overall spirit of love that Jesus promotes in his teachings. We are to remove the character flaws that do not produce Love, Patience, and Kindness. Any negative attributes that does not produce good fruits we are to throw into the fire lest they might taint and ruin yourself as a whole.

This is not a call for perfection, but for personal reformation. Mankind is a fallible creature bound to make countless of mistakes. We are the only ones consciously aware of our exsistence with the ability to Reason. We must always remember this when interacting with our fellow man. This is what Jesus meant when he spoke of removing the speck of dust from your neighbor's eye while ignoring the plank in your own eye. We bicker and peck at each other as to how we reform ourselves (through beliefs and practices) to the point that we forget that all of us are pursuing personal happiness: Taoist, Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Wiccan, Atheist. Your religion, or lack thereof, is worthless without a spirit of love. The good fruits you produce are what important not how you produced them. If what you believe causes you to grow in Love, Patience, and Kindness towards one another then these will be apparent in your fruits. The fruit is the cherished most part of fruit-bearing trees, not its roots.

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