Christ’s Expectations

“And these are the ones sown on the good soil: they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty and sixty and a hundredfold” (Mark 4:20 NRS).

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At a clergy gathering yesterday, we were encouraged to consider faithfulness and fruitfulness.  After discussing those concepts in small groups, we then received a scripture verse to enrich our discussion.  My group received this verse from Mark.  Those are Jesus Christ’s own words and they reveal his expectations for us.  We are called to faithfulness; to “hear the word and accept it.”  We are also called to fruitfulness; to “bear fruit.”  The issue is that Christianity has become uncomfortable with this notion of bearing fruit.  You will hear everyone from laity to clergy complain that it becomes all about the numbers, an emphasis on quantity over quality.  Perhaps it brings up memories of college entrance exams and being assigned a numerical value for your worth. 

No matter how we feel about standardized testing, or accountability based upon empirical data, it does not negate what Christ says.  We are called to bear fruit for God, in the name of Jesus Christ.  He doesn’t stop there.  It’s not just bear one or two pieces of fruit in your lifetime.  Oh no, Christ has high expectations for us, because Christ knows what we can truly do if we are so inclined.  He expects us to produce exponential numbers of fruit; “thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.”  I was sitting in a room with a lot of clergy who were uncomfortable with this verse.  Perhaps what makes it most uncomfortable is that those are not the words of just anyone; they are Christ’s, and they carry immense weight and authority. 

We can no longer go to church every Sunday and be believers in our hearts expecting that it is sufficient.  That is not enough, and Jesus says so.  We are expected, no commanded to do more.  That is the thing about real faithfulness that permeates our entire life: it will bear fruit.  Other will see us, hear us, and get to know us.  Then they will want what we have, desire their own relationship with God, and seek out their place in God’s kingdom.  If we are content with just faithfulness, then we are guilty of hiding our light under a bushel.  We are squandering the blessing of Christ.  This call to bear fruit is very real.  We can try to delude ourselves into saying that it is quality, not quantity, or any other excuse we have been known to offer, but Christ has told us what he expects.  By the time we stand toe to toe with him and try to argue about fruitfulness, it might just be too late.

Lord Jesus Christ,
I hear your words,
And I fear their implications.
How can I do so much?
Then I hear this voice, growing in strength within me.
It boldly and firmly proclaims:
“I am with you until the end.
I give you strength and equip you with the means.
Go and make disciples,
For the transformation of the world.”
Lord, I want to obey,
But I am frightened, overwhelmed, and doubtful.
Guide me with your Holy Spirit.
Where I am weak, strengthen me.
When I am scared, bring me peace.
May I bear the fruit you deserve from your servant.
Teach me your ways,
And I will be faithful and fruitful.
In your holy name.

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