No healthy tree bears bad fruit, no poor tree bears good fruit. And each tree is known by the fruit it bears: you don’t gather figs from thorns, or grapes from brambles. Similarly, the good person draws good things from the good stored in his heart, and an evil person draws evil things from the evil stored in his heart. For the mouth speaks from the fullness of the heart.
Why do you call me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ and do not do what I say? I will show you what the one is like, who comes to me, and listens to my words, and acts accordingly. That person is like the builder who dug deep, and laid the foundations of his house on rock. The river overflowed, and the stream dashed against the house, but could not carry it off because the house had been well built.
But the one who listens and does not act, is like a man who built his house on the ground without a foundation. The flood burst against it, and the house fell at once: and what a terrible disaster that was!”
Every now and then we come across controversial figures. Controversial because their ideas on the Christian life are new and startling, a bit shocking to staid believers, but greatly praised by more adventurous Christians. How do we assess such controversial figures?
In today’s gospel reading Jesus gives us a criterion which enables us to assess correctly the people who claim a role of ideological leadership among Christians: “Each tree is known by the fruit it bears,” Jesus tells us. And he specifies: “A good person draws good things from the good stored in his heart, and an evil person draws evil things from the evil stored in his heart.”
Well and good. But what are the “good things” Jesus is referring to? Here Paul can help us when he teaches us about the fruit produced by the Holy Spirit. “The fruit of the Spirit,” he writes to the Galatians, “is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal 5:22-23). Previously, he had written that the opposite fruits are: “immorality… sorcery, hatred, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions… drinking bouts, orgies” (vv.19-21)
With these criteria, we can assess any controversial figure.
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