It was a beautiful morning, and I was pleasantly munching on a handful of grapes as I sat at my desk working on what I hoped would be my next blog post. The sweet little purple tidbits were a healthy and tasty addition to my morning, but definitely not a focal point of my attention, at least not until a random thought occurred to me. I realized that part of what made them so enjoyable was that I didn’t have to deal with seeds. While these grapes tasted just as good as those we bought a few weeks ago that had seeds in them, these came with no added inconveniences. That appealed to the lazier part of me whose motto is, “The best treats are the ones that come with the fewest cleanup chores.”
A Sudden Change of Direction ~ My random reflections about grapes generally just reinforced the glad feeling that somebody had figured out how to grow grapes with no seeds. But then as my attention toward them began to fade, the subject was jolted back to life and took an abrupt turn. I felt something like a horse might feel if his rider suddenly jerked his head around and demanded an immediate turn down a different trail. The destination wasn’t clear yet, but the change in direction was not negotiable.
I yelled out loud in my head, “My grapes are seedless!” I had eaten half a cluster without encountering a single seed. I popped another one in my mouth for further confirmation and spontaneously offered the brilliant scientific observation that, “This ain’t natural.”
Problem Solved ~ My conclusion regarding the unnatural condition of those grapes is supported by a biological and agricultural record dating back to the very beginning of life on this planet. The incredible new world God had made was filled with millions of living expressions of the unquenchable life flowing out of Him. But after the gloriously stunning beginning, there were questions about how to manage and maintain it. The myriad forms of life inhabiting this new world had to have some way to be sustained and preserved. As He is prone to do when faced with a problem involving astounding complexity, our ingenious Creator resolved it with one simple concept. God proceeded to load that simple concept into a physical device that He adapted into the natural functioning of every living species. On the third day of the creation week, God revealed what that incredible invention was and described its role in the simplest of terms.
Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the earth”; and it was so. 12 And the earth brought forth grass, the herb that yields seed according to its kind, and the tree that yields fruit, whose seed is in itself according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 13 So the evening and the morning were the third day. (Genesis 1:11-13 NKJV)
God called these little reproductive miracles, “seeds.” The basic design for every life form that produced them was compacted within every seed. Every seed came equipped with all that was needed to reproduce its originator, which would, in turn, create more seeds of its own. Seeds were the repositories of hope for the future of life in this world. Without them, every living species on the planet would die in one generational cycle.
Blending Two Worlds ~ That sobering reality brings up another question. We know that life exists outside the limits of this physical world. Does God’s plan for expanding and maintaining life in the spiritual realm include a similar concept that corresponds to the role of seeds in the natural world? Jesus made it clear that it does, and He often used the natural variety to demonstrate how the concept works spiritually. Luke presented a classic example with a story that Jesus introduced with a simple opening declaration:
A sower went out to sow his seed… (Luke 8:5a NKJV)
The story continued with descriptions of the different soil conditions the seeds fell into and the impact it had on the reproductive process. Later, when they were alone, the disciples asked for a fuller explanation of what the story was meant to teach. Jesus then revealed that the seeds He was concerned with weren’t physical and neither was the harvest He sought. The first sentence of His explanation was profoundly revealing:
Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. (Luke 8:11 NKJV)
To bring our point in all of this into focus, let’s return for a moment to my cluster of grapes. The reason seedless grapes were developed had nothing to do with improving vineyard productivity. It had everything to do with the fact that people like me find seeds inconvenient and sometimes downright irritating. We like indulging our appetites, satisfying our tastes, and catering to our preferences, and seedless grapes suit us just fine. If, on the other hand, we wanted a grapevine of our own to provide us with an endless supply, then seedless grapes would be worthless.
A Clear Objective ~ Since Jesus’ parable was not about physical seeds, it’s reasonable to conclude that His interest is in “sowing” the Word of God not only with life-giving power, but with reproductive intent. The gospel Jesus proclaimed to a lost and hopeless world enabled new life to burst forth in the hearts of those who heard and believed it. When He returned to Heaven, He commissioned His followers to continue to sow the same “seed” with the same power and the same objective. The problem is that parts of the message are not so pleasant. There are truths in it that are inconvenient. The Good News includes things to be addressed that some find offensive. We might say that the delicious cluster of life-giving grapes we’ve been given to distribute are full of seeds, and for a long time we haven’t handled that reality very well.
You may have noticed that the number of active Christians in this country has been declining at an alarming rate for decades. Reasons for it are suggested that include everything from a lack of ecclesiastical creativity, to political conspiracies, to the negative influence of social media on parental priorities. Maybe there’s a simpler issue that has played a major role. Maybe we’ve decided to do some genetic engineering with the Word of God and offer a “seedless” variety of the Gospel. Issues like sin and the non-negotiable call to personal confession and repentance are often difficult to deal with, as is the expectation of maintaining a lifestyle that validates the faith we claim to have. The offer of eternal life can be made to sound so much more appealing if we leave those parts out. The problem is that when we do, we make the gospel like seedless grapes–tasty, but no possibility of reproduction.
Returning to the Mission ~ To put it in terms of our current context, Jesus didn’t send us with a basket of seedless grapes to satisfy appetites and cater to the tastes and preferences of a sin-cursed, hopeless world. He sent us into the world with grapes that are full of bothersome and difficult seeds. He expects us to enjoy the good things about the fruit, but His objective goes beyond that. He sent us to plant vineyards.
The Word of God still stands, and the powerful, life giving impact of the gospel of Jesus Christ has not been diminished, so let’s keep our taste for seedless things limited to the produce section of the supermarket and get back to the work He called us to … planting spiritual vineyards.
“TWEETABLES” ~ Click to tweet and share from the pull quotes below. Each one links directly back to this article through Twitter . . .
- “Jesus’ parable wasn’t about physical seeds. “Sowing” the Word of God has reproductive intent. The Gospel Jesus proclaimed to a lost and hopeless world enabled new life to burst forth in the hearts of those who heard and believed it.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “Maybe we’ve decided to do some genetic engineering with the Word of God and offer a “seedless” variety of the Gospel. Issues like sin and the non-negotiable call to personal confession and repentance are often difficult to deal with.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “The offer of eternal life can be made to sound so much more appealing if we leave out sin and personal repentance. The problem is that when we do, we make the gospel like seedless grapes–tasty, but no possibility of reproduction.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “Jesus didn’t send us with a basket of seedless grapes to satisfy appetites and cater to the tastes and preferences of a sin-cursed, hopeless world. He sent us to plant vineyards with grapes that are full of bothersome and difficult seeds.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)