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In a back yard there once lived an apple tree and a thorn bush. The apple tree produced nice juicy apples that everyone liked to eat. Kids would climb up the tree and pluck the apples. Worms would eat the ones that fell on the ground. Birds would peck away at the fruit from the top. The owner would also prune and spray the tree to make sure it produced lots of fruit for the neighborhood. In the corner, about 50 yards from the apple tree stood a thorn bush. Nobody messed with the thorn bush. One day old Jimmy Johnson ran his bike into it, but after he got all cut up, he never made the same mistake again. Nobody picked any fruit off of it, everyone left it alone. At first the apple tree liked all the attention. But after about ten years, it started becoming envious of the thorn bush. It said to the thorn bush, “you know, I’m sick of everyone always climbing on me and picking my fruit. The master is always trimming me, putting smelly manure around my trunk, and making a fuss over me. I wish they’d go somewhere else. Better yet, I wish I was a thorn bush, then everyone would leave me alone.” The thorn bush then looked at the apple tree and said, “don’t be a fool! Bite your bark! Look at me! I don’t do anyone a bit of good. I feed nobody. I look ugly. All I do is harm. The master didn’t plant me here, I’m just a wild weed. The only good I do is to fill up some space in the yard. I would trade all the thorns in the world to have one child climb my branches - to have the Master trim my branches - and produce some fruit.”

As Christians, we are sometimes like the apple tree. It seems like we’re taken advantage of by the world. People ask us for our fruit, and then walk away without saying thanks. People climb us, abuse us, and do all sorts of things to us, and expect us just to take it all the time. The Master even removes our thorns by saying, “the fruit of the Spirit is peace.” But that’s ...

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