“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:1-5, NRSV).
When Alan started reading this scripture on the Sunday he announced our name change, I thought he was going to say that we were becoming Abide Church (which I personally like better than Vine Church, but oh well).
There’s a lot of abiding going on here, and there are layers to the word “abide” that I think help us go deeper with how we, the branches, connect to Jesus, the vine, and God, the vinegrower. I’m going to discuss two of the definitions of “abide” and how they play into the branch/vine/grower relationships.
The first definition of abide, and the most obvious one, is: to continue in a place, to endure without yielding. This sounds really easy. We say we live in Jesus and He in us, and it sounds pleasant. A beautiful, bountiful grape vine being kissed by the sun.
Conditions aren’t always ideal, though. There are droughts and storms. We might wither or get blown away. Branches could detach from the vine. Much like when cold bitterness sets into our hearts and turns us from God or when we doubt God in the conditions we find ourselves in and seek nourishment elsewhere.
It’s not always easy to stay connected to the vine, to endure spiritual hardships without wavering, which is why Jesus emphasizes the benefits of it in John 15. We don’t have to worry about the vine clinging to the branches. God is faithful and loves us; He won’t let go of us. The vine is much stronger than the flimsy, brittle branches. Our hearts are the ones that are prone to love and leave. Our minds are the ones that forget. So Jesus reminds us of the fruit– the luscious, tastey fruit– that comes from us abiding in Him, of life and fruit abundant.
The second definition is: to accept without objection. This speaks to the pruning. We sprout in certain areas when and where we shouldn’t. Not that we necessarily mean to; more often than not, we don’t even realize that growth has happened or is bad until God comes to prune it.
And our first reaction is to object.
“I can quit anytime, so it’s not a problem,” or “I don’t see why this is an issue,” or “Wait, God. Let’s talk about this.”
It’s difficult for us branches to abide whatever the vinegrower wants. We want to stretch and grow wild, filling in the spaces we think we’re meant to take up. If we could only see past the pain of the pruning and trust the vinegrower, we’d find out that we can stretch even farther and take on a bigger, more productive shape through His guidance. We would find that we have more space to bear our fruits.
I love a good image, and I appreciate a good metaphor, and Jesus gives us both of those in John 15:1-5. He teaches us to be steadfast and to endure, to trust in God. There may be pain in the pruning, and we may struggle to stay connected to the vine, but if we abide in Him and He in us, our fruits will grow plentifully and strong.
By Carrie Prevette