The Autumn Leaves
If you are lucky enough to live in a place (or to have visited a place) that enjoys actual seasons, then you’ve probably been privy to the diverse spectrum of colors exhibited in fall foliage. When the temperatures drop and the days get shorter, non-evergreen trees know to begin preparing themselves for their winter slumber. The process of the leaves breaking down their chlorophyll allows their true colors (yellows and oranges) to come out. Meanwhile, various chemical reactions in other types of trees provide for the bright reds and deep maroons worn by their leaves. Eventually the autumn leaves give way to their weight or a gust of wind, finding their way down to the ground and meeting their end. (read more here)
As I stare out my window, admiring the gorgeous foliage in the park across the street, I notice the mosaic of leaves painting the sidewalks. Reds, yellows, oranges, but mostly browns sit quietly awaiting a city parks manager to come by and bag them up, carrying them off to be broken down. Individually the leaves are absolutely lovely, but once they fall from their trees, they begin to fade and wither. Then, I admire the trees that still have full, colorful tops. The leaves that remain intact are vibrant and compliment every other leaf left on the tree to create a symphony of color (or colors, in some cases). The conglomeration of the individual pieces makes the whole that much more inspiring.
Isn’t the same true for Christians?
We are all leaves on the tree that is the Church. Not that the Church is entering a winter slumber, but through Christ our original colors will shine through. On our own, we are beautiful. Breathtaking, even. We still reveal the glorious work of the Creator. We still shine His lovely design in our life. We still tell a story and even represent a larger whole. But left on our own for too long, we will begin to wither and fade. Our color will start to turn brown. We might be blown from place to place. Or we might sit where we are waiting for the proverbial end.
However, attached to the metaphorical tree, the Church, rooted in and nourished by Christ, our colors can shine brightest! When we are gathered with other believers, whether in corporate worship, Bible study, prayer groups, or any other form of Christian community, all of the believers shine brightly and compliment those around them. The amazing symphony of color can be seen both near and far. We provide a fuller image of Christ, His love, and His workmanship. And attached to the tree, we keep our color brighter, stronger, and fuller.
Many Christians try to go at it alone. Maybe they’ve been hurt by their own church or by someone they admired as a Christian. Maybe religiosity and legalism tainted their perspective of Christianity. Maybe they just don’t like being around other people. But whatever the reason, the result is always the same. Away from Christian community and fellowship we grow weaker and more susceptible to our own whims. Still, being around Christians doesn’t make you a Christian any more than a nut on the tree can become a leaf. But being a Christian surrounded by other Christians can certainly make you spiritually stronger and a more vibrant example of Christ. Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” (NIV) The same is true in Christian community.
Which leaf will you be?