A few weeks ago, my one-and-a-half-year-old son gave me a picture that he had drawn. To be honest, I had no idea what the picture was supposed to be. It was just a bunch of squiggly lines. So I told him that. I told him that the drawing was horrible, I couldn't even tell what it was, and not to bring me another drawing until it was much better. Okay, before you stone me, that's not actually what happened. I did what every good parent would do; I accepted the scribbles, grateful for the intention behind it. And I thanked him and told him what a good boy he was. Was that pandering? No. It was recognizing the limits of what a one-and-a-half-year-old can do.
Mark 11:12-14 offers a curious story in which Jesus condemned to death a fig tree that had leaves but no fruit. The strange part of the story is that Mark says it was not the season for figs, so there was no reason to think there would be figs on the tree. Except that the tree had leaves, which advertised that it would have fruit. So it seems that Jesus did not condemn the tree because it didn't have fruit; he condemned it because it claimed to be something that it wasn't.
I see a similar tendency among Seventh-day Adventists, although I'm sure other Christians do the same thing. When a person accepts Jesus or comes to the church, we want to immediately fit them into the mold of what we think a Seventh-day Adventist should look like and act like. We want them to have all the right “fruit and leaves,” even if it doesn’t accurately reflect who they are. I think Jesus' story gives a strong warning against this.
I know that my son's drawing abilities will improve as he gets older. Likewise, I know that a new believer in Christ will continue to grow in their relationship with God and their understanding of God's will for their lives. I want our church to be a place where each person can authentically be who he or she is, even if that is a bare fig tree, still growing.