“A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. A tree is identified by its fruit. Figs are never gathered from thornbushes, and grapes are not picked from bramble bushes.” Luke 6:43–44 (NLT)
There is not a definitive answer as to how many species of fruit there are in the world, but it is estimated that 1000 to 2000 types of fruit are edible. Individual preference would probably pair this list down quite a bit, but just because I do not like bananas does not mean that they are not good fruit. The qualities of good fruit include taste and nutritional value. We do not judge fruit by their trees because two trees might look the same and yet one has sweet delicious fruit and the other bitter and unsuitable for consumption. Likewise, good fruit can come from a variety of different looking trees. It is also interesting to note that there are trees which can produce multiple varieties of fruit.
Jesus was not giving a lesson in horticulture, but instead he was letting us know that if the fruit of a person’s life was good, we can safely come to the conclusion that the tree that produced that fruit is good as well. In the 2000 years that have passed since Jesus established the church and in many ways it has come to resemble a tree that has produced many branches and seeds that have matured to produce a wide variety of fruit and yet all part of the same tree. Over time branches have been grafted on while others have been broken off and today the fruit comes in many varieties. It is also worth noting that there are branches which are not even a part of the tree and yet claim to be a part of the tree while producing bad fruit.
With so many varieties of fruit being produced, it might be easy to dismiss or condemn fruit that is not familiar to us or fruit that is different from what we produce and in doing so we fail to acknowledge and accept what has been accepted by God. We must not fail to accept one another simply because we abide on different branches. Historical courses and experiences have resulted in a vast variety of trees and fruits in the kingdom of God and if that fruit is edible and nutritious, we should receive it and celebrate it.
The fruit that our lives produce is varied in appearance, texture and taste because we come from a variety of branches. In the same way that Paul uses the illustration of the body in 1 Corinthians 12 to demonstrate that although we are different in many ways, we still belong to the same body and are therefore valuable, useful and necessary. Even if we do not agree on how future events will unfold or if some of our theological perceptions or liturgical practices are not in alignment, we must still recognize the good fruit that is being produced. Jesus said, "You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.” John 15:16–17 (NIV)
We may find it astonishing that someone who does not act like us or think like us can produce good fruit, but Jesus commanded us to love one another and in doing so, each one of us will produce even more fruit in our lives for the glory of God.