“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 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. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”– John 15:1-8 (NIV)
When I was twelve, I decided to prune the out-of-control hedges in our front yard. I’d never pruned anything before, so I didn’t know there were special clippers for hedges. That’s why I wound up standing on the rail of the porch, holding a whirring weed-wacker out over the top of the hedges. They actually turned out pretty good, though anyone driving down Main Street that afternoon probably got a good laugh.
What I did wasn’t really pruning, though. (Crazed hedge-wacking, but not pruning.) Pruning isn’t just lopping off whatever happens to be sticking up that day. Pruning is done deliberately and while thinking about the long-term health of the plant.
In this passage, Jesus compares his followers to branches that extend out from him. It’s not surprising when he says the branches that don’t produce fruit will be cut off. What is surprising is he says the branches producing fruit will also be trimmed, or pruned. I think it’s interesting there’s no option here to just hang out on the Vine undisturbed. We’re presented with only two options: get cut off and thrown into the fire or get pruned a bit.
You’d think that a fruit producing branch would be left alone, but we don’t get left alone just because we’re producing a few pieces of fruit. A branch that’s left alone will eventually become unhealthy and stop producing fruit at all. There’s so much fruit to produce, and we can’t produce it without getting a little uncomfortable first. I can’t imagine that having pieces of myself cut away would be terribly comfortable, yet it’s the only way to remain in the Vine.
How does God go about pruning us?
With the Bible. Jesus says, “…you are already trimmed because of the word I have spoken to you.” We study scripture to better understand Jesus’ words so that we can “remain in [him]”. It’s important to know what Jesus said so we know how to follow him.
With the Holy Spirit. We get little (or large) nudges sometimes that help us see where we need some trimming. The Holy Spirit might blow in at any time and rattle our branch.
With each other. I've often realized I was holding onto some diseased twigs when I saw the fruit other Christians were out there producing. God can use the example set by others to keep our branch healthy.
We have to be willing to let go of those brittle, dead parts of ourselves. We have to allow God to challenge us and prune away what’s needed. It’s the only way we can continue to bear fruit. It’s the only way we can truly call ourselves disciples.
Kristy is an ex-Mennonite adult PK who blogs about life, active pacifism, and wandering through the spiritual wilderness at kristyburmeister.com while consuming ridiculous amounts of coffee and pie.