Scripture Reading: Romans 6:15-23, Galatians 5:13-14, 1 Peter 2:11-17
When I was in elementary school, I decided I was going to grow an apple tree in our backyard. I didn’t tell my family about it. I wanted to do it secretly so that one day when there was a blossoming apple tree growing out of my mother’s flower bed, everyone would be amazed and I could reveal that I had grown it.
I hoarded an apple seed from an apple I had eaten earlier in the day and smuggled it into the backyard when no one was looking. I dug a shallow hole in the flowerbed, placed the seed inside, and covered it with dirt. Then I hoped for the best.
In our last Romans passage we learned that Jesus’ death and resurrection does not mean life is a free-for-all, or that we can live however we like because of God’s grace. It means our motivation has changed. We don’t live under the yoke of the law any longer; we live under the covering of Christ, and that gift of grace motivates us to live by God’s Word.
In Romans 6:15-23, Paul gives us another reason why Christians should not continue to sin simply because grace is now at play: fruit.
Before you knew Christ, Paul says, you were slaves of sin (Romans 6:17). And “…when you were slaves of sin, you were free from allegiance to righteousness. So what fruit was produced then from the things you are now ashamed of? For the end of those things is death. But now, since you have been liberated from sin and have become enslaved to God, you have your fruit, which results in sanctification—and the end is eternal life!” (Romans 6:22).
When we interpret the message of grace as permission to continue sinning, we miss out on living a life that bears fruit, and instead, we live lives marked by death, for that is what sin is. This is not only harmful to our own souls; it is harmful to our witness. First Peter 2:12 says, “Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that when they slander you as evildoers, they will observe your good works and will glorify God on the day he visits.”
Our lives do not bear fruit in order for us to look good to others. Our lives bear fruit so that others will see it and know its Source. A fruitless life does not point to our Creator. A fruit-filled one glorifies Him with each step we take (John 15:8).
You can probably guess what happened with my apple seed in the backyard. Absolutely nothing. While I had the big idea right—apple seed leads to apple tree—I went about it all wrong. If you really want to grow an apple tree in your backyard, it’s much more complicated than burying a seed and hoping for the best. I looked it up. The real process involves things like “germinating” and “grafting” and transferring the plant from various-sized pots until it is ready for the ground. Then maybe, hopefully, your tree will grow and bear fruit.
I eventually forgot all about my apple tree. Days, weeks, and months went by, and since nothing was growing, I forgot about the seed and my little secret plan. It had been a fruitless effort because I had not properly cared for its growth.
Oh, that my Christian life would be the opposite of that poor, non-existent apple tree, that I would live motivated by grace so that others would see a life in full bloom, and that its beauty would point them to its source.