2 minute read

Life Among the Branches

Last Updated: May 18, 2021

Ellen Dykas

Ellen Dykas is the Women’s Ministry Coordinator at Harvest USA in Philadelphia. She has a MA in Biblical Studies from Covenant Theological Seminary, and a Graduate Certificate in Biblical Counseling through the Christian Counseling & Education Foundation (CCEF). Ellen’s focus at Harvest is on discipleship with women who are struggling with sexual and relational sins in their own lives, as well as women who are impacted by the sexual sins of their spouses or others.

While social utility tools and blogs continue to gain momentum and usership, I’m wondering if people, in general, are experiencing truly being known in deeper ways . . . or less? I’m wondering if people are feeling, in general, more rooted and connected . . . or less? I’m wondering if, in general, we feel and experience a “home” somewhere, or relational and emotional drive-through realities? Online community life is at best a shadow of the truest home we have: JESUS, our True Vine.

Jesus is Home for all who will respond to His invitation to come and abide in Him, to all who will come and dwell in His words, love, and commands. And here’s an extra blessing added to that: as we make our home in Him, the True Vine, we discover that He places others alongside us . . . other branches. The True Vine’s design (see the Gospel of John chapter 15 for good stuff on all this) is that His followers (who He calls “branches,” and “friends”) live life in Him, but alongside each other. We all so often give way to the lie that we can find life in something or someone else rather than the Vine (even in each other, but branches can’t abide in each other).

Consider these thoughts and ponder the following in light of (a) John 15 and (b) your relational world.

  1. Branches grow alongside each other, not in isolation, but not abiding in each other either. Most of us will veer in one of these directions: I don’t need anyone, or I need others for life, security, and well being. If you’re a people-junkie like me, you tend to attempt to make people into Jesus-replacements. But they can’t! There is one God, one Soul-Filler, one True Vine and it is Jesus. On the other hand, He DOES place us alongside each other in this life. So the opposite extreme of saying,“I’ll live life just fine in a ‘me + Jesus’ reality is also not God’s design. Where do you lean?
  2. Branches are connected or in relationship to one another through the Vine, not each other, but draw life from same source, the Vine. Life Together is an amazing book about community and relationship among believers. Author Dietrich Bonhoeffer explains so richly how we are also to relate to one another through Christ. This means that He is central to all of our socializing, relating, connecting, and journeying alongside other branches. It’s a dangerous mistake to relate to someone with Jesus off to the side, as a 3rd party in the room. No, if Gal. 2:20 and Acts 17:28 are true, then Christ is our life, is the One in whom we live and move and have our being and life. We abide deeply in Him as we sit in the presence of another person, enjoying relationship with him or her through Christ. I can’t recommend Holy Scripture enough! It has transformed some of my relational views; it has discipled me to be a more pure-hearted lover of people.
  3. Branches don’t exist for themselves but for MUCH fruit bearing that shows to whom they belong (Vine-Jesus) and this glorifies the Father–the Vinedresser. Do you ever do what I do? Do you apply the rich commands of Scripture to other people for your sake? Something along the lines of, “Hey! Don’t you know that Romans 12:9-10 says to make much of me?! To honor me? To love me sincerely?! To be devoted to me?!”
  4. Branches are promised three things. (1) A much-fruit harvest IF they abide. This harvest includes our relationships: loving others extravagantly, freely and in a way that sends ‘ripples of grace’ outward. (2) Nothingness if they do not abide. (3) Prayers answered (but it’s a given that the requests are in harmony with the Vinedresser and Vine).

Are you making your home in the True Vine? This is the only way to have fruitful relationships with other people! Branches make really wonderful, sweet branches . . . but lousy, dangerous “Vine Replacements.” Take it from one who knows but is learning to feast on Jesus day by day.