Somehow the idea has gained popularity that Christianity is mainly about beliefs – about creeds, doctrine, biblical texts and church statements. Or it’s about structures, organization, church membership and attendance. But both of these miss the point. Jesus made it plain that his life and work was mainly about human life and how it is lived – what he called kingdom fruit. What we believe is important, and church membership and attendance is not to be neglected, but they are means to an end – life lived the way that God wants it to be lived, life lived according to the values of God’s kingdom; that is, a living out of the great commandments: love to God and love to neighbour. Addressing the situation of his own time, Jesus took the well-known image of Israel being God’s vineyard and he said that, like any farmer, God wants to get a harvest from his property. However he pointed out that, over the centuries, the leaders of Israel had rebuffed every effort made by God to get what he was looking for. God even sent his own son, but he fared no better than earlier agents. So the kingdom of God will be taken away from Israel and given to another people. This has often been interpreted to mean that the Church now takes the place of Israel as God’s chosen people. It is now the vineyard and its leaders are the farm managers. But this again misses the point. What God is looking for is a people who live by the standards and relationship values of God’s kingdom. The priority outcome expected from beliefs and church involvement is Christ-like living. A successful church is not one which has a large membership, healthy bank balance, the right doctrine or plenty of activity going on. It is the church that is producing saints, godly people, Christ-like people. Of course there is no perfect church just as there are no perfect saints, but the desire to see people alive to God and demonstrating love as respect, care and compassion toward others are what gives a church its Christ-inspired purpose. Bible study, doctrine, organization, as well as other aspects of church life, are to lead to lives aglow with the love of God and lives shaped by the compassion of Christ.
- In Matthew 21:33-46 we have metaphors of vineyard and temple building mixed together. Can you identify them? What are they saying?
- What do you think of the idea that the church should be a training ground for saints? How could we do it better?
- If it is the Spirit of God that creates Christ-like people, what part do we play?
- Talk about kingdom fruit reminds us of Paul’s fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). What are they? Are you able to add to his list of fruits of the Spirit?