The Marbles and the Grapes

“To what shall I liken this generation?” Today’s state of Christian
fellowship is very much like a large room filled with thousands of sacks
of marbles. The marbles are all similar, with some differences in color
and decoration, and they are divided up among a vast variety of different
marble sacks. The smallest sacks contain only a couple dozen marbles, a
few enormous sacks hold thousands, and there are sacks of every other size
as well. There are simple cotton sacks, somber black sacks, sequined
sacks, sacks of every fabric and design. Some are brand-new; others are
obviously antiques. Some sacks are tattered and patched; some are even
sewn shut at the top. Some of the large sacks are stunningly decorated,
with no expense spared– like Faberge eggs of the marble-sack world.

The marbles in each sack are identified by the sack they sit in. Marbles
in one sack are essentially closed off from marbles in the other sacks.
When you look for the marbles, you see the sacks. And while the marbles in
a sack rub up against each other all the time, they aren’t really
connected to one another in any way. The only thing that actually holds
them together is the sack. I am keenly aware that if a sack were to burst,
all its marbles would fall out and scatter, to be scooped up as prizes by
the owners of the other sacks.

Consider, by contrast, a bunch of grapes. Lovely terminology, “a bunch”–
not a dozen or a hundred or a carton or a case, but a “bunch”. As vague a
description as one could create of the shape, size and appearance of that
conglomeration of individual fruits. How many grapes are in a bunch? Where
do they stand in relation to each other? That is totally dependent on what
kind of connective network the vine produces for that bunch. Grapes are
held together internally, by the connections of the vine. Life flows
through those connections. How does one “identify” grapes? By the vine on
which they grow.

Marbles (and many Christians) are held together by external organizations
owned and operated by men. If you are a marble, you “join” a sack, and the
sacks compete for your presence. If you are a grape, you find the
Vine-connections that God has created for you in Jesus, and His life flows
to you and others because you are connected.

The owner of a marble sack always wants more marbles and a bigger sack.
The vinedresser only wants better grapes.

Are you living like a grape or a marble? Look closely at your connections
with fellow-believers. Did you comparison-shop and choose your present
church because it attracted or suited you? If your group’s Sunday services
and programs disappeared tomorrow, would you go looking for another group?
That’s marble behavior. When someone asks you about your spiritual
identity, do you say, “I belong to First Baptist”, rather than “I belong
to Jesus”? Very marble-ish. Does your group require some form of “church
membership” for a person to function fully there? Does it ask your
agreement to a “statement of faith” or some such set of doctrines? Would
your affiliation be in question if you always went to Sunday morning
meetings with another group? All these are characteristic of a religious
“marble sack”.

You are called to be a grape, so why live like a marble? There is a better
life available in the Vine.

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