A Segment or the Whole?

I like apples. I don't like the way they quickly discolour when you cut one up. If you are sharing food at a picnic it is better to give the whole apple to someone and not try to keep pieces back for yourself. Even if you did think to bring a knife. 

Mandarin oranges are different from apples. They divide easily into segments. They are good for sharing at picnics or for savouring slowly, one segment at a time. If I have an orange I can choose to give someone else just one segment if I'm mean, more if I'm more generous. 

Back in May this year, during a retreat in the Galilee region of Israel, Bishop John Pritchard took our group to the archaeological site of ancient Caesarea Philippi. It is at one of the sources of the Jordan River at the foot of Mount Hermon. This is the place where Jesus asked his disciples his crucial question, 'who do you say that I am?' (See Mark 8: 27 - 38 for one version of the story).

What has that got to do with oranges or apples you may wonder?As we sat that day in May in the shade of fig trees, near the remains of the ancient pagan temples, Bishop John challenged us with an illustration of the difference between an orange and an apple. An apple is one piece, an orange has segments. In our commitment to Christ were we giving selected segments of our life and holding back the rest or offering (as it were) the whole apple? For each of us the response should follow from our answer to the question, who do you say Jesus is? Who is he for you?

A truthful answer from the heart is more about relationship than about a doctrinal statement. I can recite one of the creeds that the church has agreed about who Jesus is. I can have some intellectual understanding of what the words mean and give verbal assent to it. But to answer the question, 'who is Jesus for me' involves knowing myself as well as knowing Jesus. Which is why there can never be a once for all answer. It's a question that I think I need to keep revisiting, along with an honest appraisal of 'who am I?' 'Who am I in relation to Jesus? Am I offering selected segments of the orange of my life or the whole apple, even the areas that don't look so good?

In 'The Only Necessary Thing', a compilation of the writings of Henri J.M. Nouwen I found these words of his about about prayer. They remind remind me of the orange and apple illustration.

"Praying is not only listening to but listening with. The discipline of the heart makes us stand in the presence of God with all we have and are: our fears and anxieties, our guilt and shame, our sexual fantasies, our greed and anger, our joys, successes, aspirations and hopes, our reflections, dreams and mental wandering, and most of all our people, family, friends and enemies, in short all that makes us who we are…. We tend to present to God only those parts of ourselves with which we feel relatively comfortable and which we think will evoke a positive response. Thus our prayer becomes very selective and narrow. And not just our prayer but also our self-knowledge because by behaving as strangers before God we become strangers to ourselves."

Image Credit: Wikimedia


  1. Lesson received and understood. Now all I have to do is put it into action.
    Thanks for this one Nancy, it really got my imagination working.I think standing naked before God, warts and all, takes some courage, I'll try for the whole fruit.

    1. It strikes me that God can cope with us - warts and all. The problem is can we?


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