I like oranges and so I always keep a few around the house for snacking. But sometimes they don’t get eaten soon enough and go bad.

The other day I saw that one had gone bad, so I took it out on the deck and tossed it down the hill. It went rolling right on into the woods, and would you believe it, I think I heard a voice, an old raccoon it sounded like.

Peering into the woods, I could make out a couple of raccoons having a serious conversation. When that yellow ball went rolling by them, the old raccoon stared at it and then turned back to his fellow raccoon, who appeared to be another old guy like him.

Best I could tell, he said this: “You know, that’s not the first time I’ve seen one of those orange balls. I saw a strange thing the other day—an orange ball came rolling down into the forest. It looked like something to eat, and so I tried it. Tasted pretty good, too. I saved the peeling, and I’ve been trying to figure out which tree that thing fell from . . . doesn’t match any tree I know. Sure isn’t from an oak tree, and I matched it up with a blueberry bush and no luck there . . . maybe it’s some kind of apple, do you think?”

Listening to those two old boys got me thinking about Jesus’ comment on how people are like fruit. He said an apple tree produces apples, not acorns; and blackberry bushes don’t grow coconuts. Now raccoons might try to match up an orange with a yellow poplar tree, but there’s an unwritten botanical law that says trees produce fruit of their own kind.

Jesus was of course speaking about the words and deeds of his disciples, and indeed, the words and deeds of those who opposed him. He even moved the metaphor into a moral setting, saying that a good tree brings forth good fruit, while a bad tree produces rotten fruit.

Does that mean if we do enough good deeds we can earn the approval of God? Not on your tintype — God loves us even when we bear rotten fruit.

It’s a broad principle, you know—orange trees bear oranges, blackberry bushes have luscious blackberries, raccoons have baby raccoons, and you have your mother’s nose and your father’s red hair!

In the moral realm, Jesus is saying that if we are his disciples, our words and deeds, indeed the set of the sails of our life, will reflect that we are children of the Heavenly Father.

Maybe each of us ought to check out the fruit we are producing in our daily lives and the tree it comes from. Is the intent of our life to bless others? Are our words kind or cutting? Do we encourage other folks? Do we work at believing the best out of others? Our lives — and our approach to life — will reflect our upbringing and our faith.

So, if a yellow ball of fruit comes rolling toward you . . . look for a tree full of yellow balls! And one other word; Father’s Day is coming up. Show your Dad, wherever he is, that you appreciate his example of kind words, forgiving spirit, and always pointing you to the Heavenly Father, whose child you are.

Earl Davis’ column “Raccoon Theology” appears biweekly in The Blowing Rocket. Dr. Davis is an artist, earldavisfineart.com, and also pastor of the Middle Fork Baptist Church, Blowing Rock, next door to Tweetsie Railroad, with services in the sanctuary and on Facebook and YouTube, and can be contacted at earlcdavis@bellsouth.net

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