I have had the privilege and frustration to be involved in complex theological discussions at the highest level. On the other hand, when you read the gospels, you can be struck by the profoundness of simplicity. For example, Jesus says, “You will know them by their fruits.” Obviously, an agricultural illustration: if a fruit tree isn’t producing, perhaps it’s time to fertilize or prune it, or even chop it down. When you look for an apple, you won’t find it growing out of a thistle. The more I thought about the simplicity of this, the more I thought about people. Everyone looks at people in various ways; e.g., they may have a reputation for not following through on things. They may be grumpy and critical all the time. Somehow you know that they just don’t have patience, are overwhelmed by any sort of responsibility, or are simply selfish. It is all about them.
On the other hand, some people you can set your clock by – they are in church on a regular basis and step up and lead a committee that will plan an important event. They are generous almost to a fault: any time there is an appeal or a need, they respond, perhaps even sacrificially.
Long ago I woke up one morning with the feeling that I wasn’t really going anywhere or making any kind of impact on anyone. Much to my surprise, by observing others, by some pangs of guilt and by an overall feeling of emptiness, I came to the conclusion that I could do a lot more with my life. Experts say that the most selfish time in our life is when we are in our twenties, trying to develop a career, family, and other aspects of personal status. It’s all about me during those times. By contrast, later in life we want to establish a legacy. That legacy can be pretty meager if we are living patterns that bring us back to ourselves.
So, when Jesus says, “You will know them by their fruits”, maybe we need to look at ourselves. What are we producing, doing, achieving that is really making any difference in people’s lives? Put differently, is there enough evidence to convict you of being a Christian? Or are you anonymous in most of the world and to your friends when it comes to your faith?