Prepare Our Hearts – May 19

A Weekday Devotional from Central Presbyterian Church.  Find another day here.

Tuesday May 19, 2020
1 John 3:11-15

For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. 12 We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. 13 Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. 15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.

Several weeks ago, in the height of quarantine, the natives (and the parents of the natives) in the Kish house were becoming quite restless, so we decided to take the family to go pick strawberries at the strawberry patch. We figured that a little sunshine spent out in a wide open field would do our cooped up bodies and minds some good and, apparently, so did the rest of the known world. Although we visited in the early afternoon on a random Tuesday, the parking lot and field was completely filled with other stir crazy families. While all of our crew eagerly picked the biggest, most beautiful berries we could find, some of us did a better job of filling the bucket than others. Of our three girls, the oldest enjoys picking strawberries but refuses to even try them, the middle will only eat them if she has picked them herself and is currently standing out in the field in which they were picked, meanwhile the youngest would eat her weight in strawberries anytime/anywhere if left unsupervised. Although she didn’t enjoy the experience in the same way, the oldest was not upset that she never found her favorite fruit, oranges, out in the strawberry field. Why? She understood that a plant doesn’t get to choose its fruit. Strawberry plants can’t decide to grow oranges, and apple trees can’t decide to grow peaches; that’s just not how fruit works. Just imagine the confusion that would ensue if the farmer never knew what plants would grow which fruit.

In our passage this morning, we are once again reminded that the fruit of the God is love. The way of Jesus has always been the way of love. Love was the reason He was sent into the world. Love was the reason He went to the cross. Because God so loved. Since love is the message at the heart of the gospel, and those who believe have the seed of Jesus planted within them, they should likewise be expected to produce the fruit of love. As John writes, “we should love one another.” It is important to recognize that love for one another is not so much a command as it is an expectation. The strawberry farmer does not go out into the strawberry field to command his strawberry plants to yield strawberries instead of pumpkins. Likewise, if a plant in the field is not producing strawberries, one can safely assume it is not a strawberry plant at all, but rather an invasive weed that must be eliminated.

Cain and Abel were the first two sons of Adam and Eve. Genesis 4:3-5 reads, “In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell.” Because God found favor with Abel, Cain became angry and in that anger he killed his own brother. Why did God have regard for Able but not Cain? John informs us that Abel was righteous. As we read in Hebrews 11, Abel’s righteousness was not a product of his offering, rather it was a result of his faith. Abel was made righteous by faith, and his righteous offering was a fruit of his faith that revealed the contents therein. Abel was not accepted by God because he made a better offering, he made a better offering because he was accepted by God. Likewise, the Lord rejected Cain because he was evil, as his actions later revealed without objection. Faith is not something that we do or something that we earn; faith is a gift, it is something we receive from God. The differences are subtle but vital to understand.

Just as the fruit of a plant reveals, rather than creates, its true identity, our fruit reveals the contents of our hearts. Just like faith, love is something we first receive from God, but it is also something that we are expected to give away. Love is shown by the fruit of our works, our words, and even our thoughts towards one another. That fruit of love stands in stark contrast to the rest of the world and is a sure sign that we have been forever transformed. Christians were not always pretty little plants that produced fragrant and delicious fruit. Before Jesus intervened on our behalf and in our lives we were just like the rest of the world, controlled by our evil hearts and producing the bitter and destructive fruit of the world. But when we were found by Jesus, He didn’t just pluck off the bad fruit and replace it with good, He performed a miraculous resurrection within our hearts. As a result of His work, and only as a result of His work, we can love as He has loved.

Prayer for Today:
Lord Jesus, we ask that You would help us to examine our fruit. We confess that in our interactions with others we have not loved as You have loved. We are far too quick to judge and condemn those who think and look differently than we do. We too easily dismiss and give up on others, but You have never given up on us. We ask that You would continue to do Your work of cultivation in our hearts. Give us a heart of love for Your people and Your world. In Your name we pray, Amen.