there is an orange mango hanging in the sun soaking in the morning warmth ripening silently hanging on its long stem firmly attached to a slender branch sucking in sustenance growing gradually rounder full of succulent juice vitamins A and C swaying slightly as a breeze comes through to caress the smooth skin and whisk off dust breath of heaven and sap of life and healing light I hang here too knowing soon my turn will come to fall, matured and ripened,
fruit that tells a story of life sustained by love and grace attachment to the Source hanging where I'm placed living out my little span being fruit falling to the soil to die, to let my seed be buried whole to grow into a leafy tree with crowds of limbs and flowers bursting into fiery clusters that drip down becoming stems with balls of green forming on their ends and it begins again but now it's hundreds of green newborn fruit sipping the sap the sun and the breeze and on it goes . . .
Mangoes are such a blessing! Watching the mango trees grow heavy with fruit every year, fruit that I longed for, was one of the riches of living where I did in northern Côte d’Ivoire. The family ate the fresh fruit with delight. I always had plans to make mango pie, ice cream, mango sauce, mango butter, and freeze whatever would fit in the freezer. Still, many fell to the ground and rotted. But how could a new tree be produced unless that happened?
The Scriptures are full of the imagery of producing fruit. The one we are most familiar with is that of the vine, of how we are to be like branches that cling to the vine and thus are nourished by the sap and can produce fruit. It is vital to understand that one. It is true of mango trees as well: if a branch loses its hold and is whipped off the tree, it dies. There is no fruit.
But I am intrigued by the way this image of “fruit” is also used to describe a tree:
The fruit of the righteous is like a tree producing life, and the one who wins souls is wise. (Prov 11.30)
Here I can picture a tree growing from a seed, and then, when it produces its fruit, this gives life to others! That fruit will nourish many, and some will fall on good soil and become yet other fruit-bearing trees. And the fruit that gives life involves right actions (what the “righteous” do) that encourage others and promote justice, and that invite people to enter that same way of living.
Jesus talked about how it matters whether the soil on which seed lands is receptive or not. When the Good News is received with conviction that lasts, the result is a healthy plant that also bears fruit.
But as for the seed that landed on good soil, these are the ones who, after hearing the word, cling to it with an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with steadfast endurance. (Luke 8:15)
In these verses it is clear that the fruit of that seed comes from living out the truth, the Word, in such a way that others are impacted. Clinging to the Word “with an honest and good heart” means learning it, absorbing it and letting it direct one’s actions – definitely not just claiming the title “believer” or “Christian”. It requires “steadfast endurance.”
Then in John 15 Jesus makes it clear that living out that truth hangs on whether mutual affection is a reality in the community. In fact, the command to love one another is underlined as the obedient action that allows the disciple to remain in God’s love. “Remaining” is explained by that metaphor of staying attached to the vine, which is where the disciple receives the strength and capacity to actually love others in this fundamental way, absorbing instruction that leads to living for others the way that Jesus did. I would encourage you to truly meditate on the entire chapter; here I will just highlight this emphasis on mutual loving. It has really clarified things for me:
My Father is honored by this, that you bear much fruit and show that you are my disciples. 9 “Just as the Father has loved me, I have also loved you; remain in my love. 10 If you obey my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. . . .12 My commandment is this– to love one another just as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this– that one lays down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. . . 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that remains, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you. 17 This I command you– to love one another. (Jn. 15:8 NET)
There it is! And I do believe we miss applying this way too often in our communities. What is the world noticing about Christians in the U.S. these days, for example? Is it not our divisions, our quarrels, and our public maligning of those who differ from us in their political position, social class, race or immigrant status? Do we listen lovingly to those who are experiencing more challenges or suffering than we are?
Showing love is always a challenge, especially when it requires finding ways to show it to those who are mistreating us or misunderstanding us. I like the example that Paul gives in the following verses, where he asks for grace for those who have opposed him in the Family of Christ:
At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. (2 Tim. 4:16 NIV)
This past year in Côte d’Ivoire the dry season lasted too long, so that the “mango rains” the come before the rainy season did not come until a few months too late. The mango harvest was truly disappointing. It made me realize how important it is that the nourishment of the sap, the life-giving liquid in the tree, can flow as it should and therefore produce fruit. If we are going through spiritual drought, not getting the nourishment we need, it is no wonder that we find it so difficult to love as Jesus commands us to love. It is up to each of us to analyze where we get our nourishment, and whether it is really from him or from the world. Let’s figure out how we can love one another!