I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. – Amos 5:21
I often tell people there are certain parts of Bible that are the needlepoint passages. These are those much loved and well worn verses that speak of love and hope and promise. “The Lord is my Shepherd;” John 3:16; these are the needlepoint passages that are lovingly crafted by aunts and grandmothers that adorn the walls or tables of our living rooms and kitchens. But then I tell people there are the passages that we would never dream of adorning our homes with…these are the passages that never get put into needlepoint. Could you imagine walking into someones sitting room and seeing “I hate, I despise your feasts”? You’d wonder what the story is behind that and think it downright odd!
The simple truth is that there are parts of the Bible that we really love – parts like “nothing can separate you from the Love of God” – and then there are parts that we’re not so crazy about – parts like Amos 5:21…or the entire book of Amos for that matter! In seminary one of the lessons I learned was when you come upon a passage in Scripture that you didn’t particularly like, or that you had a hard time with, it was then that you really needed to start paying attention.
The simple truth is this: the Bible, the Christian faith is not what we want it to be. It’s not meant to affirm us as being extra special and wonderful just how we are and if only everyone else in the world would see that and become just like me then gee wouldn’t this world be a wonderful place. Instead, we are invited into a story, the story of God and his people, the story of sin and salvation, the story of going astray and of following. The Christian faith, and the Scriptures that inform it, tell us of our great need and of the savior who says that it is all done for us…these are those needlepoint passages – the comfortable verses that give us hope and faith. They are important for sure! But the faith also calls us to conform our lives to the life of Jesus. These are the passages that never make it into needlepoint. And they are important as well!
Think of it in this way. We are called in scripture to bear good fruit. Now if you were to plant an apple tree what sort of fruit would you expect it to bear? Apples! If however it were to produce oranges, well then, you’ve got something planted other than an apple tree; you’ve got an orange tree. This is true of the Christian faith as well. You are planted, if you produce the fruits of a Christian then you have been planted as a Christian. If however you produce some other kinds of fruit, well then, there is no Christian. God plants us – that’s those needlepoint passages. We forget the importance of bearing fruit – that’s those parts that never make it into needlepoint.
So what are these fruits? We’ll not ignoring the hard, uncomfortable verses of Scripture would be a good place to start. Christians know that we are to be conformed to Christ – that’s a process that is never completed…this side of Glory that is. Christians know that amendment of life, repentance, improvement, growth, service to others, and holiness are an integral part of the Christian life. These parts of Scripture may never go up on your wall or be cited as your favorite verses, but maybe, just maybe you can place in your heart this needlepoint.