What If I Refuse to Change?
If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. John 15:6
When it comes to my ingrained, habitual, self-destructive behaviors, I’ve usually required significant consequences to convince me to change. Transformation is often uncomfortable, and so, it’s simply been easier to stay on the path that I’m on – until it becomes too painful to continue. I don’t like to admit it, but I’m convinced that if I’d never faced the horrific consequences of my drug addiction, I’d still be using. Only when it was made agonizingly clear that my life wouldn’t continue as I desired, did I become willing to abandon my way and follow Christ. I needed the dire warning.
It’s with this cautionary tone, that Jesus spoke in today’s passage. Using the metaphor of a vine and its branches, Jesus said that if we want to be filled with life, we must remain attached to him. In doing so, our lives (branches) will bear evidence (fruit) that we abide in him. If, however, we don’t follow Christ, his life won’t flow through us and our existence will reflect that detachment. Disconnected from the vine, we’re severed from our only source of eternal life and thus, we cannot grow or show evidence of life. In such a state, we’re headed only for death and destruction.
It’s easy for us as Christians to assume that Jesus’ warning applies only to those who don’t believe. We think that because we believe, we’re the ones attached to the vine and those thrown into the fire are those who choose disbelief. Belief though, is not even mentioned in the passage. Rather, it’s those who continually remain attached to Christ, producing fruit, who have life. We either produce fruit or we don’t. Those thrown into the fire don’t necessarily disbelieve, they just don’t display any evidence of authentic faith in their lives.
Jesus’ warning isn’t only for others. It’s for us, even if we claim to be Christians. If our faith is authentic, then very real fruit will grow out of it. If our lives bear no fruit, then our faith, no matter how much we claim belief, is a farce. If our faith is real, it produces radical change. If we refuse to change, then we’re not following Christ, and we’re headed for misery and disaster.