IMG_8898 I recently discovered a new type of apple in our refrigerator crisper. Have you tried a Honey Crisp apple yet? Wow, it’s a beautiful thing! It has just the right balance of sweetness and crispness. I enjoyed both its flavor and its texture, two things that are important to me in an apple. I don’t know what a honey crisp apple tree looks like, but based on its fruit, I sure wish I had one in my back yard.

Jesus once warned his disciples to avoid false prophets. He compared them to diseased trees with the implication being that he wanted his followers to be healthy trees. He said, “You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit.” (Matt. 7:16-17)

The fruit is what’s telling, and the more beautiful the fruit, the more healthy the tree. Jesus also said to his disciples, actually he commanded them, saying, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (Jn. 13:34-35) The Apostle Paul wrote about the freedom given to Christians, but he also warned of how that freedom can be abused. He wrote, “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.” (Gal. 5:13-15) Paul goes on to instruct the brothers and sisters in Christ about how loving use of freedom can be lived out by walking by the Spirit, and it will be clear that they are walking by the Spirit based on their fruit. And we’ve all heard those words of Paul in Galatians 5:22-23; “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” Now, that’s fruit so beautiful that surely many would want that tree in their back yard.

At our recent Listen and Speak conference, Pastor Scott Sauls spoke to this very point and encouraged us to consider whether we are marked as a people by “beautiful words, beautiful hands, and beautiful homes.” Do we speak, serve, and show hospitality in such a way that others will long to be near us and to have our same source of beauty. These are all important aspects of our witness, but I want to focus specifically on our words.

Are we using beautiful words? Would we say that the words we are using show forth the fruit of the Spirit? Scott Sauls shared some helpful quotes, but two I found particularly convicting were Ann Voskamp’s call for us to “Speak words that make souls stronger.” and Madeleine L’Engle’s reminder that, “We draw people to Christ not by loudly discrediting what they believe, by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are, but by showing them a light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it.”

I am concerned by the tone of some of the words I have observed people using in the last several months as this extremely polarizing election season has unfolded, and it hasn’t abated since November 8th. I’m not referring to the words of the candidates in this instance, but the words of Christians, and specifically those in our Cathedral body and those closely connected to our body about the candidates and about those who voted for certain candidates. These words are more like thorns than beautiful fruit and they seem to be delivered most often through social media. Without the governors of non-verbal cues and the benefit of intimate relationship that personal face to face contact can provide, all kinds of arrows are slung without those who are firing seeing the arrows land their wounding blows.

Is the alternative that we all keep our mouths shut if we don’t have anything nice to say? By no means! I think the most beautiful words we can use are honest words, even contradictory words, shared with the benefit of personal human contact as we understand one another’s stories and thus can love even as we disagree. Beautiful words aren’t necessarily simpatico, but they are honoring.

Here’s an example of what I mean. Recently we had a group of our parishioners who had been engaging in a heated Facebook comment string take the bold step to stop their virtual argument and gather in a living room for coffee and to hear one another’s stories. As they listened to one another’s stories, they began to see and understand from whence certain opinions came and could actually have empathy even if they didn’t agree on issues. They allowed themselves to be known, and thus they could love and be loved. Those avatars now loved one another as diverse real people, as friends and as siblings in Christ Jesus. Convictions didn’t necessarily soften, but the tone did. What beautiful fruit!

What if we all did more of this kind of hard work of listening and learning one another’s stories so that our words to one another are clearly loving and beautiful? Why not the next time we are tempted to respond in frustration or with dismissive sarcasm we instead used social media to send an invitation for coffee? I wonder, will we speak words that bite and devour or will we speak words that make souls stronger? Will we draw people to Christ not by loudly discrediting what they believe, by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are, but by showing them a light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it? Will we bear beautiful fruit? I pray and trust, by God’s grace, we will.

 

Peace in Christ Jesus,

Peet+