If you have ever had a loved one die, a friend move away, or had to move yourself, people often come up with advice that can grate on a person’s nerves. “Absence make the heart grow fonder”, “There are more fish in the sea”, “They are in a better place”, and (my favorite) “You will find someone else” are all common responses to someone else dealing with separation from a close friend or family member. Separation is a very stressful reality of life. If anyone reading this has never had a death or separation take place in your life, I would guess your circle of people is way too small. We invest our lives by design or else we tend to be very lonely. Whether introvert or extrovert, people are essential to our day to day living. The more we invest and the more someone else invests in us, the harsher the reality of separation is for us.
The Disciples were becoming alarmed at the turn of a corner in Jesus’ ministry and He began speaking about going away, betrayal, and other phrases that meant He would not be around anymore at some point in the near future. John 15:1-17 follows the passage from last week where Jesus spoke of going to His home and preparing a place for them. Double alarm. First was, Jesus would not be around anymore, and second is that they are to expect to be joining Him in the future… the near future. The Disciples had been following Jesus for close to 3 years and their lives were heavily invested in Him, and He had invested heavily in them… as he has with each of us, believer or not. The panic sets in and Jesus prepares them both for His departure as well as life after He is crucified.
“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.” In this single statement, Jesus is both reassuring the Disciples as well as exhorting the value of staying connected, both with each other and with The Father. Bearing fruit is a product of the branch remaining connected to the Vine. But remaining connected is a matter of life and death.
We cannot bear fruit separated from God. We cannot remain alive apart from God, physically or eternally. This is perhaps the hardest part of seeing brothers and sisters stop worshipping, fellowshipping, speaking, or supporting each other in The Church. To assume that we are connected to God when we refuse to be in community with other branches is foolish and we are deceived. God’s plan and our design is to be in community with each other and our hope is in knowing that Christ is our connection to both God and each other.
Does my life look more like a dying ember than part of a roaring fire?
Am I the same when I am apart from other Christians that I am with them?