“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” – John 15:2 (NIV)
The cultivation of noble virtues that asceticism blatantly burdens our shoulders with, is what this divine pruning takes care of. He prunes, is a manifestation of his grace that calls us not for introspective self-refinement, but to bring one’s heart into union with His.
“… just as you are in me and I am in you”[i]
Peter had to only focus on Christ and he could walk on water.[ii] Such is the effect of Christ on us. The only thing He desires from us is the submission of our hearts to Him. And, it is in such union that we garner all essence of His nobility in our personhood.
“… I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism”[iii]
God does not differentiate us as fruitless or fruitful. The scripture notes, every branch in me, i.e. all branches are in Him, fruitless and fruitful alike. That’s the extent of His grace, which covers us all. The scripture also says, He cuts off, meaning, not a single branch is spared by the pruner’s knife.
God does not sit and judges us as to which one of His branches are bearing fruit, and which ones aren’t, and then cuts or prunes respectively. No, because that would make Him partial. Rather, He brings the knife to all. It does not matter whether you’re a genuine fruit bearing believer or not, it’s coming for all. But what matters is, the way it affects us.
When the pruner’s knife comes, the branches that are strongly attached to the vine gets pruned while the rest gets cuts off.
“… you have refined us”[iv]
Kathario, the Greek word for prune means, removal of hindrances. So, God who is merciful cannot be said to be punishing His children for being fruitless. It is rather when He refines His body i.e. the body of Christ, He removes all hindrances of spiritual advancements. But, such refinement becomes a condemnation for professed believers who aren’t really invested in Christ. Whereas, for genuine believers, it ends up as a means of heightening their potency for divine fruitfulness.
“… If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me”[v]
God does not ask us to sit in contemplation to examine, and correct ourselves, because we can’t. The Jews have failed with their laws, we can’t go any further than that. Rather, what God is asking us is to completely submit ourselves to Him. Be invested in Him. Because when we are in Him, we’re like Him: righteous (for which He gave His life).
This is a union He desires. A union that not even God’s own knife will dissect. For a house divided cannot stand.[vi] But this union is pure, so all who are not in Him are destined to be trimmed off. What then so remains is that, we learn to acknowledge grace in this act of pruning, and accept it as a prestigious opportunity for Him to refine us.
[i]John 17:21 (NIV)
[iii]Acts 10:34 (NIV)
[v]Acts 9:23 (ESV)
Image Source: van Gogh, The Red Vineyard