Fruit that lasts

We eat a lot of bananas. Well, actually, we drink a lot of bananas because they go into our smoothies every morning. And if there’s any fruit that defines the meaning of “overripe,” it’s bananas. During the warm summer months, they ripen much too quickly, and we have to throw them in the freezer. Otherwise, we’d be able to smell them from across the room.

Fresh fruit just doesn’t last. Isn’t that why someone invented fruit “preserves” — so we could continue to enjoy them beyond their expiration date?

It might sound odd, but that’s the image that comes to me as I mull over what Jesus said to his disciples: “You didn’t choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you could go and produce fruit and so that your fruit could last” (John 15:16a, CEB).

The first theme in Jesus’ statement is the matter of who chose whom. Some people attached themselves to rabbis as disciples. But Jesus called his own disciples, not the other way around. Here again, there may be echoes of God’s choice of Abraham and his descendants to be his beloved people, to show the nations what it meant to belong to this God and no other. Jesus has chosen his Twelve and given them a vocation, a calling to be fruitful.

Second is the matter of what it means for that fruit to last. I think here of Paul’s teaching that Jesus is the one foundation of the church, upon which we should build carefully. Eventually, he says, all of our work will be tested by fire. Some of it will be burned up. But some of it, hopefully, will survive the test, and we will be rewarded accordingly (1 Cor 3:10-15).

The older I get, the more I think about that passage. It’s one thing to be professionally productive for its own sake; it’s another to wonder what part of my productivity will survive the test. My time on this earth is limited — indeed, it always has been, but I haven’t much cared until now. On what should I spend my efforts, my time, my attention?  I should continue to build, but even more carefully, with an eye to eternity.

We are called by Jesus to produce fruit that lasts. There’s no threat of fire here, no hint that we will have failed some test if our fruit doesn’t last. Paul was talking to a recalcitrant and combative congregation; Jesus was saying goodbye to his friends. But the horizon of Jesus’ statement is still eternity, just as it was for Paul.

Perhaps we can read Jesus’ words, then, as something more like vision-casting. I chose you for a reason. You have a mission to produce the fruit of love, and to do this in my name. Imagine the possibilities. Imagine how the love you demonstrate for one another might give someone hope. Imagine how that hope might empower that person to love someone else, and so on. My friends, it’s not just about isolated acts of kindness, nor about being good in order to collect brownie points for being religious. It’s about long-term impact for God and God’s eternal kingdom. Don’t underestimate what love can accomplish, and how its effects can spread. That’s fruit that will last.

Imagine the possibilities. Then go bananas.