Ingrafted Relationships

Read Romans 11:1-18

Since moving to our current home, I have become much more involved in the landscaping choices and maintenance. My participation is on the simpler side of these activities. My partner does the harder work in terms of planting and major pruning. I am more of a visionary and trimmer of small plants. I also assumed the responsibility of keeping plants outdoors hydrated. As I have become more active in landscaping there is much which I have learned but there is also a greater awareness of how much more I need to learn. I am clearly not at the point where I could graft any of our plants or control the pollination of any. I do have a rudimentary understanding of both however. I greatly enjoy the success which we have had with our landscaping. Now if I could just figure out how to get some of our plants to grow faster.

I share this information regarding landscaping at our house because in Paul’s letter to the Romans, he is using plant husbandry as an image when discussing Jews and Gentiles. Paul’s letter to the Romans is an apologetic in regard to Jesus for the Roman Jews primarily and the non-Jewish (Gentile) Roman believers secondarily. His intent is to prove that Jesus is the Messiah. At this point in the letter, Paul is explaining the relationships between Jewish and Gentile believers. He indicates that while there is a majority of Jews who have rejected Jesus as the Messiah, God has never rejected the Jews. The Jews who have not rejected Jesus are a remnant who God has saved by grace. The rejection which others have made opened access to the Gentiles. Through their rejection, the Gentiles have been brought into God’s fold, ingrafted to the tree of life. Paul also states that the Jews who have rejected Jesus will always be given the opportunity to rejoin God’s tree. Then he gives a warning to the Gentile believer. He warns that the Gentile believers should never consider themselves superior to the Jews who rejected Jesus. All are supported by God, the source of life.

This passage speaks to all of us about relating to one another. Whether we are considering the Christian-Jewish relationship or any relationship between Christians and non-Christians, including atheists or agnostics, we are to view others as equal branches on God’s tree. The first branch of the tree were the Hebrew people and then God chose to engraft other branches of the human race. This truth must inform and guide our words and actions as we engage in a highly diversified humanity, a humanity in which every branch is a creation of God.

Connected to the Vine

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.

John 15:1-16 (NIV)

Learning how to care for the landscaping around our new home over the past year has been enjoyable. We have some trees, bushes, and plants which we never had in our home state. Even the grass is a different type in our adopted state. There are a few plants with which we are familiar with but the growing season and climate difference required us to learn how to care for them in different ways. Overall, we have been successful and truly have enjoyed the new beauty which surrounds us daily. The basics of caring for the landscape remains the same to ensure healthy plants. Everything needs good soil, sufficient watering, and pruning at times. All of the plants, trees, shrubs, and grass on our property are connected in some way. Daily to weekly care depending on the season is necessary.

Jesus uses the imagery of a vine and branches when talking to his disciples in today’s passage. He points out the importance of remaining connected in order to be fruitful. He also mentions the value of being pruned to remain healthy and even more productive. Then Jesus explains about the fruit which we are to produce. The fruit is love. Jesus describes this love which starts with the Father, flows through Jesus to us, and then we are to share the love with the world around us. The imagery of the vine and branches fits well with the view of flowing love.

This passage is familiar to many and is filled with important lessons. The first lesson is regarding the importance of always being connected to the Lord, our source of love and sustenance for our lives. The next lesson involves pruning and cutting away. God does some of this but we should do some of it as well. Removing the aspects in our lives which cause us to be unhealthy and unable to produce love is vital to our well-being overall. The third lesson here is the reminder that we are intended to share the love which we have received from the Lord. In nature, if a fruit tree’s fruit is not harvested, the fruit will either fall to the ground or remain on the tree and rot either way. If we do not share the love fruit which we have, it will be wasted as well.

Remain connected to the Lord and produce fruits of love which you share with the world.