Roots or Fruits?
I think the only thing that God and Satan both agreed upon about me, is that I should definitely go to church.
Over the course of my life-long church-going career, church has been the perfect place for my narcissistic nature and guilty conscience and needy soul to clamor for something mutually satisfying.
The spotlight shines brightly at church, but just like the moon, each illuminated object has its dark side. The helper often burns out, the prophet is often cast out, and the building budget robs the down-and-out.
The pursuit toward good and the temptations for the ego are seamlessly woven together. The sword of truth is dulled and deflected by hearts who claim they already know, or by minds that are appeasing a comfort level. And so it goes, the path for the Kingdom of surrendered souls is all too often obscured by piles of potentially self-serving agendas.
Church: amidst the many also-true mission statements and objectives, it’s been defined by people as a place where we learn to be like Jesus. But with the Bible stories stacked—one right after the next—Jesus reads like a busy guy. So if this is in fact a/our calling, what exactly of Christ are we imitating?
Jesus was a lot of things. Depending upon how you see the facts, He was passionate, meek, a leader, a radical, a giver, a miracle worker, a person of tradition, a person who challenged tradition, a person of all types of ministries… And a church could get itself into trouble depending on exactly what it’s trying to emulate of Christ.
Thomas Merton coined the phrase best when he categorized ambitions into “roots or fruits”—the root being God Himself; and fruits being anything that grows as a result of our relationship with God.
Since we tend to be microcosms of our church—affecting and reflecting one another to a certain degree—it is good for the goose, the gander and the gaggle to ask “Am I seeking Christ himself or the fruits of life in Christ?”
Has the fruit become my god? Is a blameless record or successful need-meeting my noble ambition? Am I on a quest for the cutting edge, or a large following? Am I desperate for guidance? For wisdom?
First and foremost, Christ was one with the Father. His objective was to do the will of God. He implores us to love God and know God, and to abide in Him. If we are to emulate anything of Christ, let it be that—a humble, submissive life of seeking God. In all that we do, let Christ be our first goal. As a church, let us be like Jesus by emptying ourselves of any other root cause except oneness with God. It is fatiguing, if not utter soul death, to attempt to have a fruitful life or church any other way.
As we the church continue to evolve, we’ll likely perpetuate the swing back and forth between magnifying God’s love toward one another as a church, and magnifying God’s infinite grace and endless patience as we make a mess of it.
Meanwhile, my voice in the chorus of Truth urges that this is the individual and corporate priority objective: to do whatever our part is in abiding in God and knowing God. And then “… all else will be added” (Matthew 6:33). The fruit of Christ-in-us will be that which we also seek: kindness, boldness, endurance, contentment, and real love for one another. And whether they take on a charismatic, conservative, artistic, local or international look, so much the better.
What would church look like if everyone in it had the goal of Christ?