Small fruit

Slow progress. I feel like that's what I'm making, up out of the deep dark pit that swallowed me whole in April. I see others making slow progress, too, and it hits me kind of like the sun on a 70 degree day. Slowly, the warmth builds and spreads, and yes, you will sweat just as hard as a hot day if you stay long enough. 

We planted a few tomato plants in a long-abandoned deck garden at the beginning of summer. They've been blasted with sun, never have seen a watering can, and are at the whim of every passing downpour or hailstorm. Yet there is some fruit growing on these vines. While we might have hoped for a huge crop - 20 tomatoes or so - we have seven. And we are thrilled with the seven who have survived the craziness of a in and out again hospital summer.

I know believers like these. Lots of them. They never will give a 20 tomato crop, but they are slowly moving toward the seven. It takes a lifetime for the fruit to be revealed. I've heard many Christians dismiss these believers, saying fruit would be more visible in their lives if they were truly converted. And then they refuse to stay around for the lifetime to see the drunkard, the gambler, the smoker, the adulterer slowly bear small fruit.

I spoke to my uncle the other day, and he talked about supporting his sons as they start their careers. He laments being able to be a help to his mother, now gone. He talks about continuing to pay down his debt of child support even though his sons are long grown. He has made many bad choices, and is plagued by their consequences, but He vehemently professes Christ and quotes the Gospel to you if asked.

Can a Christian be alcoholic their whole life and still make it to heaven? I think of the thief on the cross, the one to whom Christ said, Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise. (Luke 23:43) WHAT? Someone entering paradise with NO fruit? Then again I think of James 1:27, which says that religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. An alcoholic might never be unstained by the world, but he can watch out for widows and orphans. (or divorced wives and lost sons)

What do you think? Can you judge salvation based on works? How long would you wait before condemning the person who doesn't give up their bad habits or start going to church?