What is your apple core?
I’ve lately been strongly inspired to examine the apple and the apple core. How can we use them to illustrate ideas of faith.
1. The Core of the Church
Imagine the whole of Christianity as an apple.
Each denomination and church and group are all a part of this apple. From Seventh Day Adventists to Church of Christ to Orthodox Christianity to the Jesus Movement and beyond. (Now, I am not including certain groups that claim special or unique status or knowledge, and you’ll see why in a bit.) But there is great diversity in this apple. People that think that we should worship with liturgy and those who believe we should have new songs arising all the time. Believers who interpret parts of the Bible allegorically and those who take every verse to be literal command. Christians who think they should meet on Saturday and those who meet on Sunday. The KJV-only and those carrying around a bright pink Message. The monks and the politicians, the missionaries and the homemakers. Those we agree with and those we can’t understand. The denomination we grew up in and the church group that is just so WEIRD. They are all there in that apple.
If they can all meet in the middle, at the core. We have so many differences in Christianity, in the Church. But at the heart of the Church, the true Church, is Christ. At the heart of the Church is the Church’s purpose—and though we can disagree over exactly what it is, we can all agree that it connects back to Christ and making Him known. How we do that, that’s where we grow in different ways. Some build huge churches and hold worship services for people to encounter his majesty and glory. Some send missionaries around the world until every tongue can speak His name. Some meet in homes and build fellowship with other believers. And so on and so forth. The “how” varies. The “where” varies. The “why” can even vary—to a point. And that point, that converging place, the meeting place, the union and communion of the Church is dependent on the “who” : Jesus Christ. We center around His person, His work, His life and death and resurrection. Within those elements there are even points of disagreement—but you can disagree about something and still come together over it. Families fight and argue at Thanksgiving and Christmas, but in the end they still sit down at the table and hold hands and pray as one body. Likewise, we must remember, in all our diversity and disagreements and differences and individuality and interpretation and methods and messages, we must have Christ at our core, and if we do, we are one body at our core. We can have our differences, but at the core we are one and the same: the body of Christ in this world.
2. The Core of Jesus Christ
Imagine Jesus as this apple (I know- sacrilegious, right?!)
This is the Jesus of a thousand viewpoints. This is the Jesus that was a rebel and revolutionary, and this is the Jesus meek and mild. This is the Jesus whose commands were only figurative and the Jesus who really meant for you to cut off your hand if you struggled with lust. This is the Jesus who was a learned rabbi and the Jesus whose wisdom came straight from God. This is the Jesus who healed the sick with a touch, and this is the Jesus who touched the sick and showed compassion to them—and his compassion is what healed them. There have been as many different understandings of who Jesus was and is as there have been people who have heard his name. Every person who comes to Jesus has a different background and education, bias and hope, understanding and openness. Everyone sees him differently because they need him in different ways. Now this is not to say that Jesus is merely who we make him to be, a figment of our imagination, a mere story. No, Jesus is the Story that is true. He is real, more real than any perspective or understanding we will ever have. In the end, all our notions and worldviews and understanding will fade away and burn away and in the end, the true Jesus will stand upon the earth– but will he find faith upon the earth? Will he return to find people that truly knew Him? Or people that merely sang him songs and followed his instructions? Will he find people that trusted and followed HIM or trusted and followed their own idea of Jesus? Thomas Merton wrote, “Our idea of God tells us more about ourselves than about Him.”
You see, past all these layers of interpretation and understanding, there is one person at the core: the true person of Jesus Christ. Within the core is his purpose for coming to earth, the works he did, the life he lived, the truth he spoke, the death he died, and the resurrection he offers. Yes, we can argue about what the resurrection really means or what it was exactly that he said, but we must believe Him. Like building a friendship with someone—you might not be sure of all the meaning behind their actions or know if they really said that one thing that so-and-so said they said—but if you know them, you know them- you know their core. Likewise, we must seek to know and center ourselves on the core of Jesus. All the other things reflect the diversity of life within God’s creation—but at the center of all our differences is the one thing, the one person, who holds us all together: Jesus.
3. The Core of Your Identity
I have spoken of this for years now, before all this apple imagery started growing from the branches of my brain. But once again… Imagine your life as an apple.
This apple represents all that you do, all that you like, all that you own, your future, your present, your past, your friends, your family, your school, etc. All of your favorite songs are in this apple. Your work resume and school records are in this apple. That story you wrote in 2nd grade about a pony and your journal from your mission trip. Everything is in this apple. (Yep, that’s a big apple. And no, I’m not talking about New York.)
The thing about these apples, all three of them, is that they are constantly growing and being formed. The Apple of the Church and the Apple of Jesus are harder to see grow because it has happened and happens over years, decades, centuries, millennia. But your apple, the Apple of Your Identity, that grows in visible ways every day, every second. Every choice you make affects how your apple grows. Will it grow more in the Sports region or the Academics area? Will it deteriorate in the Family section and grow exponentially in the Friends part? Where you go to school, the people with whom you spend your time, the books you read, the food you eat, the toothpaste you use (or don’t use) affects the apple. And you know what? Let your apple grow. Apples must grow, or else they are a waste of space (now, if you are a cook and have some recipe for malformed apples, don’t interrupt me- it’s rude. Instead, make me your recipe and send it to me- I’m hungry).
I first developed this analogy as I found myself at college my freshman year. Freshman year is a year of change and growth, trying new things and retesting old things. Do you continue going to a Baptist church or do you try another denomination? Do you stay in touch with your old friends or just completely start over? Which two of the three components of college will you focus on: Social Life, Academics, or Health (cause you can rarely balance all three)? Will you grow a beard or cut your hair? Will you start going by another name or stay the same? Will you change or stay the same? In the end, there is no right answer for those vague questions. For other questions, there are good answers and bad answers. You should still work hard at school. You should continue in your faith. You shouldn’t waste your life with things that destroy your body. Some things are just plain true and good. But others are vague and uncertain. You can seek God’s will, but often he gives us freedom. He does not govern us like soldiers, but instead, like a Father wanting to see His children start to walk and grow to run, He wants us to develop character to make those right choices naturally and live a life that reflects Him. So in the end, try new things. Grow. Experience life. Find yourself. But… remember the core of your identity, your core identity, your core.
I believe that your core does not change over time. Maybe over decades, or maybe after great disaster or renovation of the heart, but overall, who you are, who God made you to be does not change. The desires He placed deep within are still there. The hopes and dreams for the future are the same. The strengths and weaknesses you have. The character you have built. The internal manifesto of morality, what you value, what you want to see in the world, what you just won’t do—Those things should not change. That is your core, that is who you are. They should not change—BUT only if they are centered on the Core of Jesus Christ. Your core should depend on Him and His values and His desires for the world. Of course, there can be freedom—Jesus went around preaching, but that doesn’t mean you should. Maybe it means you should preach with your actions and attitude. Jesus fasted for 40 days and nights—but maybe you need to take a break from bad influences in your life. Just because Jesus did something doesn’t mean we should repeat it verbatim. Instead, we should be an homage to Christ, an echo of his glory, a plan grown from his seed. An apple from His tree.
So as you think about these Apples, I want you to think about one more thing: the Worm. It’s such a common image, the smiling worm sticking out of the apple. And it can be a part of any of these apple analogies as well.
And the worm is, of course, Satan and all that opposes itself to God. It is the power that works within us to make us less of an echo of Christ, to separate us from our core, to break us apart and eat us up. So what can we do to prevent this worm? Well, nothing, because it’s always there—it’s “prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” However, though we can’t prevent the worm from being present in our world, we can prevent it from devouring us inside. We must be vigilant and aware, aware of the nutrients that we take in and the environment we find ourselves in. An apple derives its life from the tree through the stem—make sure you are not being fed by the world, by things not of God. Make sure your only stem is connected to God our Tree (God is the core of an apple and the tree? Why must I be so confusing? Because sometimes God is confusing—He is both the Lion and the Lamb. Christ is both man and God. And so on and so forth.) Also make sure you are not in a place that lets the worm work its way wherever it wants—if you are an apple lying in the dirt, you are more prone to destruction than one in the air, clinging to God our Branch. Watch your environment. Watch your stem. And in the end, trust in God, that He too is a Lion, much more powerful than the little worm of our enemy.
Now, if you are still reading, congratulations! I know my writing is long-winded and winds like a never ending road. But sometimes we must persevere. I have one more thing to say. Why an apple? Why not another analogy? I believe analogies are wonderful because they are concrete things that help us understand abstract concepts—and Jesus used analogies in his parables all the time. I chose the apple partially because it was the image that came to me—but also as a redemptive act. Too often we see the apple as the fruit that caused the Fall (though it was probably a pomegranate or banana or something else). In our culture, we picture Eve handing Adam an apple, the devil laughing in the background. So, here’s a little redemption for the apple. God made it good, but sin and evil have perverted it. Likewise, God created us in his image to be good, but because of sin and death we are evil from our conception to our death. Fortunately, there is redemption in Christ and he can make us new and good to the core once more. So whenever you see an apple, ask yourself: Is my Church focusing on the core of Christ? Is my understanding of Jesus centered around the core of His purpose? What is the core of my identity—and is it dependent on Christ? And take a bite and enjoy a little fruit.