“Holiness and Tomatoes”
Reverend Wiley advised me not to divorce him
For the sake of the children,
And Judge Somers advised him the same.
So we stuck to the end of the path.
But two of the children thought he was right,
And two of the children thought I was right.
And the two who sided with him blamed me,
And the two who sided with me blamed him,
And they grieved for the one they sided with.
And all were torn with the guilt of judging,
And tortured in soul because they could not admire
Equally him and me.
Now every gardener knows that plants grown in cellars
Or under stones are twisted and yellow and weak.
And no mother would let her baby suck
Diseased milk from her breast.
Yet preachers and judges advise the raising of souls
Where there is no sunlight, but only twilight,
No warmth, but only dampness and cold—
Preachers and judges!
From Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters
Once we lived in darkness. I once accidently grew some tomato plants in darkness. They were supposed to have a nice sunny window, but before they sprouted, I stashed them under the entertainment center to hide the dirt from some visiting guests. I remembered them a few weeks later.
They came out not looking so pretty. They were crooked, yellowish and weak. Edgar Lee Masters in Spoon River Anthology writes about people who are similarly twisted because they had been raised in “twilight” instead of sunlight and without warmness, “only darkness and cold.” In some way that it is the human condition: we have been born into a world which is sick with sin. The light of God to us in this condition is best described as “twilight” rather than sunlight. We turn out crooked and weak.
Romans 3:9-18 (NIV)
9 What shall we conclude then? Are we any better? Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin.
10 As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one;
11 there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.
12 All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”
13 “Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit.” “The poison of vipers is on their lips.”
14 “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 ruin and misery mark their ways,
17 and the way of peace they do not know.”
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
Into this condition, shines the light of Jesus Christ. When I brought these tomato plants into the light and began to care for them, the change was remarkable. They turned their leaves upward. They began to green. Through initial sanctification, salvation, we are plunged into the light of Jesus Christ. Our sins are cleansed and the change in us is dramatic, YET, it is still evident that we are still plants raised in darkness.
Even though my tomato plants were now living in the light, I had to prop them up with small sticks and string. In the life of a Christian, initial sanctification can and does bring a wondrous change to our lives; however, in some ways the sin problem is still quite problematic. There is still a pull to remain crooked to grow as we grew before we knew the light. As William Booth writes, “I remark that in the early stages of Christian experience this deliverance is only partial. That is, although the soul is delivered from the domination and power of sin, and is no longer the slave of sin, still there are the remains of the carnal mind as roots of bitterness left in the heart, which, springing up, trouble the soul, often lead it into sin, and which, if not continually fought against and kept under, grow up, attain their old power, and bring the soul again into bondage” (The Privilege of All Believers 9).
At some point, I had to take radical steps with my tomato plants or they might not give me any tomatoes at all. They needed to be completely transplanted into good fertilized soil. Most of their crooked, weak stem had to be buried in this new soil which allowed completely new and perfectly aligned growth to occur.
Romans 6:20-22 (KJV)
20 For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness.
21 What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death.
22 But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.
This is like entire sanctification. When we consecrate our lives to God and he faithfully takes us and transplants us completely into his grace. Romans 12:1 (NIV) “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship.” Like the tomato plants that now grow in perfect alignment to the sun, our lives grow in alignment with God’s Son.
Entire sanctification is the door through which holiness (the acts of entire sanctification) enters into our lives. Through entire sanctification, we dedicate our all to God and in turn, God miraculously heals the crippling effects of sin in our lives. He straightens us out, in order for us to bear fruit for him.