“By their fruits you shall know them. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit, and the evil tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can an evil tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit, shall be cut down, and shall be cast into the fire.”
- Mt. 7:16-19
If you’re a Christian of any stripe, it’s likely you’ve heard this passage at some point in your life. It seems sensible enough, to the point where I can only imagine it rarely garners much deeper reflection. Scripture is full of more meaningful passages to contemplate.
The problem is that when taken as a metaphor for human action, it can be used to justify bad behavior and ward off legitimate criticism. In fact, when compared to the real experiences most human beings have had, the most commonly understood meaning of this passage is so obviously false as to render it absurd. Of course bad (human) trees bear good fruit - if they didn’t, no one in their right mind would have anything to do with them.
This is clearly the case with the Legionaries of Christ, who seem most fond of using this scripture passage to deflect negativity about their “movement.”