Roger Severino

Don’t Just Do Something. Sit There!

Reflections from John 15:1-8

Perhaps your view of Christianity is of busy people trying to perform religious duties and do enough good things to ward off the guilt while simultaneously feeling superior to others. Though there are plenty of church folks who fit this description, this is not what it means to be a Christ follower.

Jesus invites us into a relationship. Everything flows from that. At one point in his ministry, Jesus turns to those around him and says: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”[1]

Is this your experience of following Jesus? Rest for your soul? Having a yoke that is easy, a burden that is light? Or, is the “weary and burdened” description more fitting?

We are called to be with Jesus before we are called to do something for Jesus. In fact, according to the passage we are considering, John 15:1-8, we cannot do anything for Jesus without first abiding in him (“apart from me you can do nothing,” v. 5).

“I am the vine; you are the branches,” Jesus says.

I pick up a lot of branches and limbs in my yard this time of year. I collect them for the city to come pick up, put through their grinding machine, and turn the wood into some kind of mulch. That’s about all a dead branch is good for. It is no longer part of the tree. It no longer can produce life.

The only way for a branch to be alive and bear fruit is if it remains connected to its source of nourishment and nutrients. Apart from this connection, it is hopeless to bear fruit.

So it is for the follower of Jesus. Yes, we can do a lot of things apart from our connection to Christ, perhaps even good things. But they are not of eternal value. Paul makes a similar claim in 1 Corinthians 13 when he says that though he could do many amazing things, even self-sacrificial things for others, but if the motivation is not love then it counts for nothing. Apparently motives matter. So does the source of our strength. Do my actions flow from Christ in me, or am I simply doing it in my own strength?

So, what does this look like? It’s tempting to suggest a lot of personal applications, but the danger is that these become the focus and any action can be done in your own strength. But, let me suggest a couple principles. First, there is an “act of surrender” that must occur. We need to make sure that we are “in Christ,” which means that we have surrendered our lives to him. Next, there is a daily “active surrender.” This paradox keeps us from both passivity and activism, for neither one captures the right concept. Active surrender means that we fully engage and participate in surrendering our will to Christ and making sure we are abiding in him and his life is flowing through us.

So…don’t just do something; sit there. But like Mary (Martha’s sister), make sure you are sitting at the feet of Jesus and learning from him (see Luke 10:38-42).

[1] The Holy Bible: New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), Mt 11:28–30.

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