Throughout the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is trying to reorient the hearts and minds and lives of all who will listen. From the unexpected beatitudes to the reinterpretations of the law, his critique of showy religiosity to his warnings about judging others, he is intent on charting a new course for his followers. By the end, he seems to recognize a danger: if they’re not careful, his followers could end up looking not much different from those whose thoughts and actions Jesus has critiqued. In other words, Jesus wants his followers to know that what matters most is not whether they agree with him or think like him. What matters most is whether their lives look like his, whether they are producing good fruit with the lives they’ve been given.
A couple millennia later and many of us still struggle with the incongruity between what we say we believe and what our lives reveal we believe deep down. Many of us have compounded this problem by falling into the trap of believing that we’re spiritual not religious. And yet the reality of our lives indicates that this is patently untrue. Some of us may no longer be religious the way our ancestors–biological ancestors or ancestors in the faith–were religious, but that hardly means we’re not religious. In fact, as he notes in the following video, theologian David Dark insists we’re all religious.
The reason this matters is that our religion inevitably produces fruit. It may produce good fruit or it may produce bad fruit, but regardless our religion produces fruit. If we are to be people whose lives produce good fruit, the first step is identifying the ways in which we’re religious. Only then are we able to either embrace that religion wholeheartedly or make alternative commitments in order to produce good fruit. Make no mistake, though: one way or another, Jesus’s expectation is that we’ll follow in his footsteps and produce good fruit.
Questions for Reflection
1. What forms of religion have impacted you throughout your life–especially those that might not typically be labelled as “religion?”
2. In what ways are you struggling to produce good fruit? In what ways are you succeeding at producing good fruit?
3. How might you alter your thoughts and habits and actions in order to produce better fruit in your life?
The Good Life Playlist
If music speaks to your soul, make this playlist–comprised of songs that explore the various themes in the Sermon on the Mount–a part of the soundtrack of your life as we explore together The Good Life Jesus invites us to live.