Jesus said in Matthew 7 that we can know whether someone is a false prophet or not by the fruits they produce. A good tree produces good fruit just as a bad tree produces bad fruit. So, I guess we can recognize when someone is a true follower of Christ, a true Christian.
People see our fruits. In fact, many times people can pick out whether someone is Christian or not. Perhaps someone has come to you and said something like, “There’s something different about you.” Hopefully, the “something different” is a good thing. Or just maybe you get the unfortunately common, “Christians are hypocritical and judging.”
Are we giving good fruit to the world? Are our fruits telling the world we are trees full of evil?
I’d say most Christians have good intentions. They want to reflect Jesus and obey God’s word. However, the how is difficult. Most of the Christians I know like to solve this problem with a set of rules. After all, you only need to check items on a list to make sure you are following Jesus.
This method seems to work for some. Many of the rules included in these lists are undoubtedly biblical, others are extrapolations of biblical principles, and still others still make little sense to me. There are many sets of rules. Every denomination has their own. Within one denomination, every country has their own. Moreover, every congregation and every member of said congregation has their own set of rules.
Things get complex. The problem is, abstract terms are too complex as well. Somehow, lists help us grade how other Christians are doing. If we go with abstract terms like “love,” then how can we say whether they are being A+ Christians or just C+ Christians?
What if … ? I’m just making a suggestions here. What if … ? You don’t have to agree. What if we stop worrying so much about rating other Christians and trying to make them settle on our set of rules?
Let me make a quick suggestion. What if we focus on the fruits of the spirit? Love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5). It is not really a list of rules you can cross out, but these fruits sound quite flavorful. They certainly are the fruits of a good tree. In them, there is no room for envy, hypocrisy, and self-righteousness.
The problem with a set of rules is not that they are wrong. The Bible lists many rules God wants us to follow, but there are many others we have added. Perhaps those rules help you attain love and self-control, so they are good. Maybe I’m different and I need different rules to produce those fruits. Your set of rules helps you evaluate your own walk, but that measure might not be a good measure to evaluate me.
Our goal is to resemble Jesus more and more each day, not to follow a list of rules. Let’s make sure our eyes are on Him, not on ourselves and others. Instead of evaluating each other, let’s look at Jesus and ask him to make us good trees that produce good fruit.