We have an apple tree in our back yard and I look forward to harvest each fall. The apples are delicious for eating, applesauce and pie! Last year we had such a large crop I decided to store some in a cooler in the stairwell of our garage. Very carefully I choose only the best-looking apples. I didn’t select any that fell on the ground, only those picked directly from the tree. I did my best to carefully inspect each one since we don’t spray our tree. But despite my best efforts, midway through the winter I discovered some of the apples were beginning to rot from the inside out and the rotten apples were spoiling the good ones too. It was just like the old saying, “One bad apple spoils the whole barrel.” Even though the apples look good on the outside, something had gone wrong on the inside.
Usually, the culprit was a tiny, nearly undetectable worm hole my old lady eyes missed. The itsy-bitsy worm had wormed his way inside and over time destroyed the inside of the fruit. It was only a matter of time before the inside spoiled the outside and the outside spoiled the apples around it.
And it’s not just true of apples, but of people. We can look great on the outside, all shiny and nice, but some little something may be worming its way inside us, creating a destructive rottenness in our inner self. Usually it is something so tiny it is nearly undetectable. Left undiscovered, that little something will eventually rot us from the inside out. And before we know it, we are likely spreading rotten attitudes and behaviors to the people around us.
Jesus, more than once, warns us about this very thing, he says to watch out for the leaven – yeast – that rises up in people and infects the whole dough. The Apostle Paul, who at first got things so very wrong (he was himself the bad apple), before Jesus knocked him upside the head and then he got it so very right; said in his letter to the church he began in Galatia (we know it as the book of Galatians, chapter five to be exact) which sort of attitudes and behaviors worm their way into our hearts and lives when we live out of our sinful (that prickly word) nature. Remember friends, sin means we are living separate or apart from God, so it is a very important prickly term. These sorts of thoughts turned into actions are the ones which will spoil us from the inside out. Here’s the short list: worship of stuff, immorality-sexual and otherwise-, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dishonesty, drunkenness, envy and the like. You get the not so pretty picture.
Whether we recognize and accept the truth of the matter or are still in denial doesn’t really matter because we don’t live in a vacuum. All of us have parents, family members, friends, coworkers, classmates and so forth we come in contact with. What we choose, and yes, it’s a choice, to fill ourselves with that makes us yukky on the inside, tends to make us yukky on the outside; affecting those around us. Even though we may look good on the outside, something has gone wrong on the inside, garbage in, garbage out. I think Jesus was much more descriptive. He called folks like this whitewashed tombs. Pretty outside, dead inside. Ouch.
There is a solution!
The solution is to change direction (which is what the word repent means) back toward God, and with his help we change what we put into ourselves and therefore what comes out! Paul goes on to list the fruits of the Spirit – the things that come out of us after we surrender our life and will to Jesus Christ. His Holy Spirit through our communion with him, fills us with his truth and his love as we become new creations in Jesus Christ. When better heart food goes in, much better living comes out of us. Attitudes of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, longsuffering and the like are turned into actions that follow suit. Which, not only changes us, but can and does affect for the better, those living with us in the apple barrel world of our lives.
Christ told us not to hide or cover up His light in us but to bring it out and shine it around, destroying the bad stuff in our hearts that makes the world rotten. He summed up the how-to formula in two simple commands:
1) Love God with all of you! All of your heart, all of your soul (the real you) and all of your mind. Not a quarter, not an eighth, but ALL of you in all areas of your living, home, work, so forth. That way nothing dark can worm its way in.
2) Then, and only then, can you spread it around and fully love your neighbor , who, by the way, is everyone in the whole wide world, especially those very unlikable, unlovable, annoying family members, friends and enemies – the other fruitcakes, I mean apples, in each of our very own little slice of the apple barrel world.
And with the help of the Master Gardener you and I will be less rotten and more:
Joy Filled always,