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Don't Be Afraid of the Gardener

Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.” (John 15:1) The metaphor is beautiful: Jesus is the trunk, we are the branches, the Father is the gardener, the Holy Spirit is the sap, and our purpose is to bear fruit.

I’m married to an avid gardener who, among many other things, has grape vines. They bear big bunches of grapes that we generally leave for the birds to eat because we really like birds.

We enjoy periodically going to a vineyard near where we live where they make wine from their grapes rather than feeding birds. They also host local live music. It’s a nice place to take a picnic, sip some wine, and listen to some tunes.

We’ve gotten to know the owners, and Kathy (my spouse) invariably gets into conversations about the ins and outs of vine dressing. Grape vines have a natural tendency to grow down and crawl along the ground. The trouble is, they won’t produce any grapes that way. So, the vinedresser walks the rows, finds the vines that are in the dirt and mud, washes them off, and ties them up so they will bear fruit.

Most of our English translations render John 15:2 much like the NIV: 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.

The Greek word translated above as “cuts off” is the verb αἴρω (aírō) which occurs 26 times in John’s gospel. It can be legitimately translated three ways: lift up, bear or hold, and take away. The problem with the common translation “takes away,” is that it is contrary to the nature of Jesus. Jesus did not come to condemn the world; he came to redeem it. Jesus is all about forgiveness, grace, restoration, making all things new. In context, αἴρω (aírō) means to “lift up.”

Jesus is not saying that God the Father cuts off people who don’t bear fruit; he is saying that the Father cleanses and lifts up those who are stuck in the muck so they can be healthy and bear fruit. John 15 used to terrify me. Now, I find it of infinite comfort.

The Passion Translation (TPT) gets it right: “He cares for the branches connected to me by lifting and propping up the fruitless branches and pruning every fruitful branch to yield a greater harvest.”

God wants our lives to produce the fruit of the Holy Spirit, which is Christ-like love. If we’re spiritually stuck, our loving heavenly Father comes along, washes us off, and lifts us up so we can produce the love the world needs. And, of course, that love is the love of Christ. As we rest in Jesus, sink into Jesus, spend time with Jesus, his loving life flows through us to others.

The Unstuck Spirit

Getting you out of the muck that has you stuck.

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