Down here in Florida our tomatoes are 1 to 2 months gone by the time those shows air, depending upon the year. We eat and give away those perfectly formed, unblemished firstfruits from the last week of May till halfway through June. Then I spend a week canning tomatoes with the plum varieties, and a few days on specialty items like salsa and tomato jam. Another week using up the end of the year uglies on sauce, and that’s that. It’s a rare year that I have tomatoes after the Fourth of July.
And guess what? In the south part of this long state, things are different still. Tomato season Is different for every location and climate.
It’s like that for Christians too. Not only do different spiritual ages have differing levels of understanding, but even different locations fight different battles. A long time ago, we moved north. Talk about culture shock. Not only did I see my first snow, we had to fight heresies that had been fought down south ten years earlier. You can see those things happen in the New Testament too, as trouble travels from city to city.
We can also discover exactly how patient—or impatient—we are with our brothers and sisters. I forget how long it took me to reach this point and expect it of them in a few short weeks. I become annoyed with their failures and with their lack of understanding. Somehow I expect them to leapfrog a few decades and catch up.
That is not how it works, and we must make allowances. It may mean we are more careful in our decision making, and it may mean we give up our liberties. It’s one thing to be held hostage by the views of the stubborn who claim they are “offended;” it’s quite another to trample on the fragile souls of those new in the faith, who are still grappling with the baggage they have not quite left behind.
And let us not deter, or even discourage completely, their salvation with some manmade list of things they should know before we accept them into our congregations. Smacks a little of catechism class, doesn’t it? Just how much do you think that Philippian jailor knew when Paul baptized him “in the same hour of the night?” Enough to understand his need for a Savior and how to contact that redeeming blood. He had a lifetime to learn the rest.
Tomato season for me is not tomato season for you, and my Christian age is not the same as yours. If you expect a green tomato to taste like one that has been vine-ripened in a home garden, you are not as wise as you think you are.
We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me, Rom 15:1-3.