Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit (John 15: 2 ESV).
I was absolutely astounded last Saturday when my Professor explained to us in Residency that αἴρω should NOT be translated takes away or cuts off (NIV). The idea of cutting off is not what John had in mind. The historical-cultural background/context reveals that a Vinedresser or Gardner would lift up or take up the vine branch and tie it to a stake, in order for it to receive more nutrients.
As soon as my Professor paused for breath, I asked if I could share a personal story. He agreed and to the best of my recollection, this is what was said:
“Ok, so I have had a plant for the last six years, who is like my child. I love Planty. Planty is very special to me. Now, I have been married for a little over a year. Recently, my husband has decided that Planty needs a new home [my classmates are groaning at this point]. Let’s just say things did not go well in this rehousing process. Planty received bugs from the new soil, which led to my Mom and I sparying Planty with some kind of bug killer. While that did not kill Planty some of his leaves and branches shriveled and became deformed. Not long after that Planty’s bugs returned. At this point I am irate with Nathan [classmates are now laughing as I am getting really worked up].
“I was ready to give up on Planty. So in a last attempt to save Planty, Nathan decided that he was going to wash Planty with dawn dish soap and microwave Planty’s soil. I thought Planty was gonna die. Well, after all this washing and microwaving Nathan replanted Planty into a smaller home. By God’s grace, Planty did not die! Planty did have a very significant lean to him. I said to Nathan, ‘maybe we should just cut Planty off?’ Nathan goes out into the garage and I hear a snap. I had no clue what just happened. Nathan comes back inside and I see that he is holding half of his fishing pole. Y’all have to understand Nathan loves to fish, fishing is life. So, the fact that he just broke his fishing pole was beyond what I could understand [truth be told I am cheap and so that factored into my attitude as well].
“Longer story short, Nathan implores me to trust him, to let him tie Planty to his fishing pole [stake] so that he will get more nutrients. So, right now I am just overwhelmed with emotion [my eyes are rolling to keep tears from falling] because what Nathan has done for Planty, is what God does for me, for us. He does not cut us off, He does not discard us, He loves us, He lifts us up so we may have the nutrients we need to thrive.”
At this point Jake says, “that will preach!” I said, “I have a blog!” Tony says, “Planty and the Fishing Pole!” I said, “I am totally naming it that!”
Father God, thank You that You do not discard us, that You do not cut us off, but rather You lift us up and give us the opportunity and nutrients we need to thrive. Lord God, cause us to thrive for You, through You and in You. Be in us, indwell us Lord. May we give You access to ALL areas of our lives. Thank You Father that You know what we need; may we trust You to supply it! Lord God, may we remain and abide in You. May we trust that You are enough, that You will provide us with the nutrients to thrive. Lord God, may we never shrink back in fear to share what You are doing and are teaching us, no matter how silly it may sound! Lord God, thank You for the gift of life. In Jesus’s Name I pray, Amen.