Anyone who cares for rose bushes will know that there is quite a science behind pruning. Rose bushes need to be pruned very carefully to make sure that new growth is promoted. A branch much be cut only where there is a new bud forming, so that there is the possibility of new growth. If the plant is cut in the wrong place, or even cut on the wrong angle, it can allow the branch to become infected and die.

In John chapter 15, Jesus uses the image of a person caring for a grapevine as an image of discipleship. He says the we are the vine, and we are pruned by the word that he speaks. This image is possibly the best lesson we can receive in preaching and discipleship. Christians are speaking the word of God every day, whether that is in a formal role of preaching or in informal conversation. We so often fail to realise that the words we speak are pruning other people.

If these words come out of our pride or impatience, we can end up pruning badly and doing a lot of damage to the other person. This is particularly the case if we are simply trying to cut out, or correct, something in the other person that we think is bad. In the same way with rose bushes or grape vines, we need to identify where the possibility for new growth is in that person and make sure that our words also promote new life. It is very easy to see the bad things in the lives of other people, but we need to also have the eyes to see where God is trying to promote new life in their lives as well.