Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. John 15:2-3 (ESV)
Grapevines are unruly – they need to be trained and pruned to maximize the shape, strength and productivity of the plant. Can you relate to that imagery? The metaphor Jesus uses in John 15 brings deep theology and experience together in a beautiful and profound way. This is the heart of true Christian discipleship. The Lord produces fruit by pruning away anything that prevents the flow of life, love, and grace within us. Our life in Christ is more a matter of stripping away, not taking on. The Vinedresser removes anything that hinders his life-giving work in us. All our spiritual activity is worthless unless it’s balanced with the pruning, cleaning work of the Lord. The Bible says this:
The Lord corrects the people he loves and disciplines those he calls his own.
(Hebrews 12:6, CEV)
But – why does pruning hurt?
- Because it’s not in our nature. We have a tendency to seek out artificial sources of life and strength that will actually stifle and suck the very life of Christ out of us instead. This is idolatry. We must also keep in mind that pruning doesn’t come naturally for us. We are inclined to desperately cling to things and relationships in a way that works against our connection to the Vine, and when the Vinedresser severs those connections, there can be an initial time of pain and longing, because that is all we have known and grown accustomed to.
- Because we’re spiritually alive. The Christ-follower will feel things with greater sensitivity as a result of spiritual new birth. The joy of blessing and the depth of loss are felt deeper than those not alive in Him. A dead person doesn’t feel anything. We have tasted the pain of sin and the goodness of God; we know the difference.
- Because we belong and are loved. The pain of pruning serves as a reminder that we have a loving Father who cares and is committed to the growth of His children (Phil. 1:6). He pursues a relationship with us because that is the context in which He produces fruit, and He doesn’t want anything or anyone to get in the way of that.
For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Hebrews 12:11 (ESV)
Pruning is vital to our training, but we also know that anything worth doing is hard, even painful at times. The Father is not beating us up; instead, He is producing lasting fruit for His glory and getting us back on track. He is moving us closer to completeness in Christ.
Pastor of Worship