Patches and Roots

0112. Patches and Roots

A generation or two ago, when families did not have as much disposable income in this country, they would do whatever they could do to extend the life of something useful and practical. Whether it was keeping the car in good running condition, or repairing the television set multiple times, we had an attitude of getting the most out of everything we owned. One such example was denim jeans. When the kids’ jeans wore out, they developed holes in them, usually at the knees where they flexed the most. Rather than pay for a brand new pair of jeans, parents would buy a much cheaper denim patch at the fabric store and either ironed it on with heat, or sewed it on to cover the hole. The parents’ hope was that the jeans would last long enough until we outgrew them. Hard to believe that today, we actually pay for jeans with rips in them. As economical as this was back in the day, it was obvious that a patch was a temporary fix. What was even worse was that if the patch failed, and peeled or tore off, the hole would be in far worse shape than if the patch had never been applied. Three lives for a pair of jeans is out of the question if a patch fails.

On the other hand, let’s examine roots. The most obvious example of roots are trees and plants. In order for them to grow strong and healthy, they need to establish firm roots in the soil. This will allow them to withstand harsh environments, and extreme elements. If a solid root structure is present in the ground, they can be pruned and trimmed without risk to their existence. They can even overcome damage, and regrow stronger than ever.  However, if roots do not take firm hold in the soil, then they will not get the proper nutrients from the soil, and are vulnerable to damage. They can be even uprooted with little effort.

So what do these examples have to do with our relationship with God? When we are first born again, we are faced with a choice. Behind us lies our old life, which was founded on choices and values that were not necessarily aligned with God’s values. Jesus calls for us to break the mold of our God-omitted culture and follow him.

In Jeremiah 18:1-6 (CSB), God reveals how he uses us if we are to follow him: “This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: ‘Go down at once to the potter’s house; there I will reveal my words to you.’ So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, working away at the wheel. But the jar that he was making from the clay became flawed in the potter’s hand, so he made it into another jar, as it seemed right for him to do. The word of the Lord came to me: ‘House of Israel, can I not treat you as this potter treats his clay?’ – this is the Lord’s declaration. ‘Just like clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, house of Israel.'”

Jesus also uses a parable to describe the exact same thing in Matthew 9:16-17 (CSB): “No one patches an old garment with unshrunk cloth, because the patch pulls away from the garment and makes the tear worse. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the skins burst, the wine spills out, and the skins are ruined. No, they put new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved.”

In our previous discussion on infection control, we described that God expects us to root out the infection of sin from our lives. This means breaking the previous foundation of our lives, and starting over. Here is the problem though: we are so comfortable with our current lifestyle, we think we do not need to wholly change, like the potter starting the jar over, or using new wineskins. We believe that we can just add a few patches, and the result will be the same. We also noted in our previous discussion that the mainstream church today does not emphasize these in-your-face uprooting types of actions, for fear of losing followers. They also go with the patch approach rather than practice infection control. We listen to sermons where a patch of grace here, and a patch of mercy there, will make us better, and will get us all the rewards of heaven.

But what is the actual result of taking a patch approach with God? Jesus explains it to us through another parable in Matthew 13:18-23 (CSB): “So listen to the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word about the kingdom and doesn’t understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the one sown along the path. And the one sown on rocky ground – this is one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy. But he has no root and is short-lived. When distress or persecution comes because of the word, immediately he falls away. Now the one sown among the thorns – this is one who hears the word, but the worries of this age and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. But the one sown on the good ground – this is one who hears and understands the word, who does produce fruit and yields: some a hundred, some sixty, some thirty times what was sown.”

Luke 8:14-15 (CSB) further explains the parable to us: “As for the seed that fell among thorns, these are the ones who, when they have heard, go on their way and are choked with worries, riches, and pleasures of life, and produce no mature fruit. But the seed in the good ground – these are the ones who, having heard the word with an honest and good heart, hold on to it and by enduring, produce fruit.” Therefore, the patch approach we see in our culture today is the seed sown on thorny ground, and will not result in any significant growth in our relationship with God. However, seed in good soil will allow us to grow firm roots, and come closer to God. So when it comes to your relationship with God, are you patching it as you go, or planting deep roots? Ponder that this week.

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