Scripture Reading: Matthew 7:13-23, Psalm 16:7-11, Matthew 22:1-14, John 10:11-15, John 14:1-6, Romans 2:12-13
I was once the proud owner of my very own pair of scratch ‘n sniff pants. Every time I bring this up, I receive looks as if I’ve been the victim of an unfortunate crime and then asked, “What was the scent? Sweat? Soap? Linen?” (Incidentally, I do think this was a missed opportunity in the ‘90s for laundry detergent companies.) But no, they were purple and smelled like grapes, of course.
As you can imagine, I was sitting high and walking tall in those bad boys. My friends marveled at the way they really did smell like grapes, and I loved letting people in on the secret. Purple pants were one thing, but grape-scented purple pants gave me a real edge in the fashion world. But it only lasted for so long. It turns out that the fruity fragrance was only guaranteed to last for the first ten washes. And since I wanted to maximize the appearance of my newfound style sense, those ten washes came and went pretty fast.
So there I was, boasting about the scratch ‘n sniff goodness, only for it to be gone. The worst part? No one believed I ever owned scratch ‘n sniff pants in the first place, and there’s little point to owning purple pants if they don’t smell like grapes. Just smelling like a fruit wasn’t enough; it wasn’t long-lasting, and it definitely wasn’t genuine.
Matthew 7 talks about two kinds of fruits: good and bad. It says once we see a piece of fruit, we’ll know exactly which tree it came from. “A good tree can’t produce bad fruit; neither can a bad tree produce good fruit” (v.18).
But what if it smells good but looks bad? What if the person putting the sticker on the fruit uses the wrong one? Or, questions we more commonly ask:
What if I sometimes sin and sometimes do the right thing?
What if I repent after I do something wrong?
What if I look like I have it all together from the outside, but I’m a mess on the inside?
All of these questions are rooted in fear:
What will God do with me then?
Will I still get into heaven?
Am I enough?
Friends, I love a good gray area as much as a pair of purple pants, but nothing about a gray area is eternal. There’s nothing—and no one—standing in “the undecided middle” that will not one day be sorted into good or bad. It will not be enough to just smell or taste like good fruit; we must be fruit grown from the love of God.
But let’s not be so foolish as to take this passage from the Sermon on the Mount, this lack of middle ground, as a scare tactic. May we always remember that the work has already been done. God separated the world into darkness and light, and Jesus grabbed us by the hand and took us to His side. It is the truest grace that we do not have to live in a gray area. Thanks be to God; we have already entered into the kingdom if we are in Christ Jesus.
May we smell like His fruit, and serve like His hands, just as we are remembered by His love. Amen.