How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! 1 John 3:1
Before I got the opportunity to study horticulture, I would look at leaves when trying to identify trees. Even then I was only familiar with the leaf shapes traditionally associated with plants such as oaks, maples and hollies. I now realize there are many different species in those genera, some with leaf shapes people typically associate with those trees and some fairly dissimilar. I’ve also learned that even though botanists consider leaves and stems when classifying plants, they use fruit and flowers, the reproductive parts of plants, to group them into families. I don’t know if it’s my eye for detail or my love of family, (maybe some of both!) but I enjoy recognizing similarities in the flower structures of different plants and then checking to see if they’re in the same family.
Just like plants can be identified by their fruit, Jesus told his disciples people would be known by their fruit. Because of the amazing grace of God and Jesus’s sacrifice on our behalf, we’re part of God’s family and, as such, we’re called to resemble Jesus, “the firstborn among many brothers”. (Romans 8:29) Fortunately, we are enabled to become more and more like him through the power of the Spirit, whose fruit is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23)
Not only are we called on to “produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:8), we’re instructed to impress God’s commands on our children. “Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deuteronomy 6:7). In other words, telling our children about God, his directives, his covenant and his character should be woven into the daily ebb and flow of life, not just reserved for Sunday school, and we must endeavor to teach by example, not just words.
As is probably true of most parents, when my daughters were young, I used to wish they’d always be as happy and carefree as they were during those pre-school years. At the very least, I yearned to protect them from adversity and pain. I have similar feelings now when I look at my precious grandchildren. Yet I know life can be difficult and no one makes it through without some measure of grief, disappointment, and hardship. But God, in his providence, often uses our most trying times to draw us closer to himself, teaching us experientially that we can trust him no matter what. And that, in turn, is what I most want my children and grandchildren to know. There is a Father who loves us. There is a Son who we are to resemble. There is a world in great need of the fruit we’re called to bear.