I had the treat the other night of watching a movie with “my girls”. This would include my lovely wife and three beautiful daughters. We watched Bruce Willis in the movie The Kid. If you have not seen it, here is a quick summary. Bruce plays a guy who is turning 40 and who is a very “successful” image consultant. In the movie, Bruce runs into himself at the age of eight.
The eight year old version of himself, the kid, comes into his life and stays around for a while. In finding out that the adult version of himself does not have a dog, does not have a wife, and does not have a family or even any real friends, the kid declares himself as having grown up to be a LOSER.
The adult definition of success was being rich and powerful. The kid’s version of success was really about knowing that you are loved and having people to love.
There is so much emphasis on outcomes these days. Are you successful? What have you done? What have you accomplished? What is your fruit? I confess. I too get stuck in this trap.
And yet, the Bible is filled with stories of people who I might say had questionable fruit.
I like to go to Noah. I often think I could not do what Noah did. I like routine, but I think Noah may have had a little too much routine.
See Noah was told by God to build the ark. This happened sometime after he was 500 years old. It was not until he was 600 years old that he entered the ark. There were a countless number of hours, days and years spent by Noah building the ark.
I know you might argue that Noah had considerable fruit. He and his family were saved. He saved the animals. But what reward did Noah really receive for building the ark? He got to witness this:
So the Lord said, “I will wipe off of the land the human race that I’ve created: from human beings to livestock to the crawling things to the birds in the skies, because I regret I ever made them.” (Genesis 6:7)
I think of the prophets who were told to go and tell God’s people to change their ways. They were told to tell the people whether they listened or not. Here Jeremiah is told:
“When you tell them all this, they won’t listen to you. When you call to them, they won’t respond.” (Jeremiah 7:27)
Where is the fruit in this? The fruit is there. It may not be what we are looking for. It may not go the way we want it to go. We may never see it. We may never see the change we are wishing to see.
So then, what are we to do? How do we know we are “successful”?
To answer that question, I come back to the focus the “kid” in the movie had and to Jesus. Their focus seems to be rather similar. They seem to agree. A successful life will be a love filled life.
Jesus tells us:
“I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other. This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other.” (John 13:34-35)
Do I think there will be fruit when we focus on love? Sure I do. Do we always know what it will look like? No. Will we always see the fruit? Maybe not. I think it is interesting. Jesus does not tell us to go and produce fruit. He tells us to go and love.
I will leave you with a question I like to ask myself from time to time. It is a question that I think is quite helpful for us to ask to live a successful life.
“What is the most overwhelmingly loving thing to do?”
(All scripture cited above from Common English Bible Copyright © 2011)