Monday, February 09, 2009

You reap what you sow

Sow for yourselves righteousness;
reap steadfast love;
break up your fallow ground;
for it is time to seek the Lord,
that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.

You have plowed wickedness,
you have reaped injustice,
you have eaten the fruit of lies.

~Hosea 10:12-13
In Matthew 12 and Luke 6 Jesus talks about how we can tell a tree by it's fruit.

Matt 13, Mark 4 and Luke 8 all include Jesus' famous parable of the Sower. He explained to his disciples that the seed is God's Word and that people are the different types of soil on which it lands. Some are hard trampled, calloused by life rocky and shallow. People like that may react to religion quickly and enthusiastically, but they don't let it take root and their faith doesn't last long in the heat of the sun.

Some think that God's alright, maybe they want some religion because they think it will make them good or because they figure they're already good people and good people are religious, so they last a little longer. But, Jesus compares them to weedy soil, the cares and concerns of this temporal, physical, material world grow up and choke any vines that came grew out of the seed. Too busy, to concerned with self, to into things.

Finally He says that "the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. (Matt 13:23)" In Luke 8:15 He calls them "those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop."

When I read Hosea 10:12-13, it makes me want to ask God to "break up my fallow ground." I want to be receptive soil because I want my life to produce love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith and self-control. And I don't just want to catch a little bit of seed in a haphazard way once in a while (say once a week in church). I want water and sun and fertilizer and (painful as it may be sometimes) weeding and pest control. You too?

Well guess what? You can just sit there like a dirt clod on the road, or you can read the Bible for yourself, attend a Bible Study (hint hint HS kids at St. John's), read devotions or other books by Christian authors, and spend time every day with God in prayer or meditation. You can seek out fellow believers and encourage one another just like team mates spur on and work out with their fellow athletes. You can expose yourself to the seed and to the Gardener Himself.

You reap what you sow. If you want to have the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:21-23) for yourself, you need to work hard at offering to and sharing with others those same fruit- even if you don't think they deserve it- love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control. I think that THAT'S what Jesus meant when He gave us the "Golden Rule" or treating others the way we'd like to be treated (Luke 6:31).

I don't believe in the Hindu concept of reincarnation, and I do not subscribe to the philosophy (be it Hindu, Jain, Sikh or Buddhist) that you alone are entirely and solely responsible for your fate- that bad things only happen to you if you're bad and only good things happen to you if you're good. On the contrary, I believe that "the rain falls on the just and the unjust (Matt. 5:45)."

But I do think that there is a little something to the concept of "karma-phala," the fruit of your actions. The Midwestern common sense idium we have for it here in Iowa is "What goes around, comes around."

Power of Positive Thinking guru and Congregational Minister Norman Vincent Peale used to say that good won't flow to you unless it flows FROM you. THAT's what I think Jesus intended by "Do unto others." That fits His great commandment of "love one another," and His charge that we even "love your enemies."

You want to have the Fruit of the Spirit?

#1 Spend more time with God, after all they're His character traits and the more time you spend with anyone, the more you start acting like them.
#2 Sow what you want to reap. Show patience and kindness to others and try to bring a little joy or peace to their lives and guess what? Fruit Salad! Fruit Casserole! Fruit Parfait!

You know what else everybody likes? Parfaits. Have you ever met a person, you say, "Hey, let's get some parfait," they say, "I don't like no parfait"? Parfaits are delicious. Parfaits may probably be the most delicious thing on the whole damn planet!

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