Pruning the Church is an Act of Love

I have written about how some churches engage in an inordinate amount of sales and marketing tactics. I reflected upon this last night.

Snipping away the extraneous things and getting to the core (in my case, seeking a spiritual leader who will let their yes be yes and their no be no (Matthew 5:37)), isn’t a harsh and unloving undertaking. Instead, I think it’s an act of love.

Jesus said to his disciples:

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 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. Abide in me, and I in you. 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. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

John 15 1-11

Many people take this passage to mean that we will suffer and our suffering is part of God’s love for us.

I don’t think that’s the case.

It’s not clear that a plant suffers when it is pruned. And as we know, when we physically grow, the may be some difference and occasional discomfort, but it isn’t typically suffering.

Think of my previous post about finding the right church as pruning. I am, in fact, pruning the church.

When you prune, as Jesus indicates, you take away the extraneous branches and what’s left will bear fruit. In all of this, I come from a long line of Christians who sometimes prune the church. One such person is Soren Kierkegaard. He wrote passionately against certain things in Christiandom from within Christianity.

If God’s pruning is an act of love, so too is mine.

When you take away the extraneous things from the church, like purely feel good messages, sales and marketing, you will find yourself free to grow and bear fruit.

Seek first the Lord. Don’t worry about the size of your congregation, or the feel good message you will hear at church. Don’t even worry if they don’t remember you the first few times you attend. You are there to participate in worship and commune with God.

The freedom of growth is an outstanding thing. Rather than being decrepit and snarled up, you will be able to “stand straight.”

There’s a difference between pruning and simply whacking a bush–or even manicuring a bush. Pruning is intentional, focused and purposeful. It aims at the true good and wishes to bear fruit. Keep this in mind if you feel like simply being critical. Being critical is not pruning.

I hope to see a community of believers who are mature and truly focused on God. I hope to see virtuous souls aiming to be in union with God. I hope to see people who take Jesus as their role model and actively work daily to be such.

None of that is critical for the sake of being critical.

When you think of pruning, you must take as your aim the One True God. If you do that, you will reveal the true vine in your life and will be acting with love. This, as Jesus says, will make whatever you pruned bear fruit.

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