On occasion, plants don’t grow vertically as they should. When the load the plant is carrying is too heavy it can topple over. If left, its fruit spoils and the plant could even die. Sometimes the weight of what we’re going through can pull us down. Unlike a stake that is removed when a plant is strong enough to fly solo, what we need is a trellis.
The church is a trellis.
We are called to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). The church is there to hold up the wounded that are drooping under the weight of their load. The interwoven connected nature of a trellis means that as a plant you become one with the trellis. It supports you as you become connected to the trellis. You grow because of the trellis.
A good trellis trains and causes a plant to grow by tying and pruning. Being tied to a trellis is probably not much fun, and at times we might wish we weren’t tied to the church. But, in his infinite wisdom, God ties us to one another and calls it church. Pruning is testing in the moment as things are being snipped at and removed. However, without the necessary pruning, plants can’t go on to produce good fruit.
“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. Whoever tends a fig tree will eat its fruit, and he who guards his master will be honoured.”
Proverbs 27:17-18 ESV
Let’s face it–iron sharpening iron can create sparks. Just like sparks, pruning can refine us even if it’s uncomfortable in the moment. You don’t need patience without people who are getting on your nerves. You don’t need compassion without a hurting party. To grow in forgiveness means you need people to forgive. To be a peace-maker, to serve, to love all requires a recipient on the receiving end. Enter: the church.
Fig trees required greater attention and care than other plants. The church is insanely precious to Jesus and he is the ultimate gardener tending it to produce good fruit. When the church is functioning as it should–tied together, supporting one another, sharpening and pruning each other–not only will it produce great fruit, it will also be beautiful too. Let the gardener do his work. Don’t disentangle yourself from the church. It’s in being tied to one another that your strength and growth will come.