Red and Green Apples
2And there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. 3And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small of stature. 4So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. 5And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.”—Luke 19:2-5
When speaking about heady or theological ideas, I’ve always tried to adopt the most biblical and practical language possible. So when I think of evangelism, I refer to people who are ready to respond to the gospel now as red apples—they are ripe to the good news. Similarly, I refer to people who aren’t yet ready for the gospel as green apples.
Red and green. It may seem simplistic, but when you apply that filter to the way Jesus interacted with people, it changes the way you see the Gospels and gospel work today.
Jesus Christ constantly cut through the crowds filled with green apples in order to focus His energy on the red ones already ripe for His message. He left a crowd of green apples to talk with Zacchaeus, for example. He turned to the desperate woman with the issue of blood even though He was surrounded by masses of other people. He talked at great length with Nicodemus, who longed for more than his formulaic religiosity.
In every instance Jesus invested in the ripe, red apples—those who already possessed a strong readiness to abandon the life they knew for something better.
Jesus gave time without limit to the red apples He met, but He hardly acknowledged the green apples that crossed His path. Without insulting those who were not yet ripe, He did refuse their company and attention.
For example, when the rich, young ruler approached Jesus, he asked, “ . . . What must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17). How many churches in our day would have that guy’s name on a card or have him serving as an usher in a matter of minutes? But Jesus used the law to elicit his prideful assertion that he was not sinful: “Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth up” (Mark10:20). Christ responded, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor” (Mark 10:21). Why did Jesus say this? Not because divesting his wealth would gain him eternal life, but because his refusal to do so revealed his un-readiness for any God other than the god of his possessions. He was a green apple. Imitating Jesus means looking for red apples.—James MacDonald
· How does this idea of red and green apples affect my understanding of evangelism?
· Whatever my understanding of evangelism, how is it actually working out for me?
Prayer – Heavenly Father, You are amazing to watch. You could move through a crowd and speak to them, but You had a special attraction to red apples. Lord, teach me that awareness. It’s so easy to target people who would make me feel good “winning” to You rather than stopping long enough to ask, Lord direct me to the people You have prepared today, whatever my impression of them. Teach me to see red apples, Lord.In Your name, Jesus, I pray, Amen.