In a rusty relationship?

 We can learn a lot from nature. Here’s a quirky example.

On Saturday, I watched from my kitchen window as my neighbor wielded an ax at the base of what looked like a perfectly good cedar tree in his backyard. He put a chainsaw to that initial cut and brought that stately tree to the ground. It stood at the back of his property in a spot I’ve seldom seen him visit except for dumping grass clippings from his John Deere mower bags.

He saw me watching and strolled over.

“So what’s up with all the tree cutting?” I asked. He confided that he hated to do it. He had rescued that tree as a sapling from my own yard when the house was being built. Fearing a backhoe would crush it, he dug it up and planted it in his own yard where it thrived with no special attention.

If he loved it so much, why’d he saw it down?

He and the wife want fruit, edible apples from their apple tree. The  harvest is a continual bust because the apple tree, he explained, is a victim of “cedar rust.” The cedar tree is corrupting the apples, so the cedar had to go. This sounded a little crazy to me (the trees were in polar opposite positions on an acre lot). I nodded politely and said nothing.

Turns out there is such a thing as cedar rust.

It’s a weird “shared disease” that stems from symbiotic relationship between cedar and apple trees growing in proximity. It’s not fatal to either tree, but it weakens apple production and makes the apple tree susceptible to other diseases and early decline. Fungicide is a treatment option, but to completely control cedar rust, experts recommend removing all cedars within 4-5 miles of apples.

Seems like an extreme solution?

Consider the extremity of the problem, from my cursory understanding: 

Fungus winters on the cedar’s evergreen leaves. By spring, they produce small brown swellings (galls) on the leaf tips. Spring rains hit and the galls swell into grotesque horn or hanging lantern shapes. By summer, these things release spores that produce bright orange or yellow lesions on the leaves and fruit of neighboring apple trees. The spores attract insects that spread the disease and spoils the apples. Late summer fungus on apple tree leaves blows back to re-infect the cedar tree in winter. Come spring, the cycle starts again.

So much for the botany lesson. Who knew all this was going on next door? That cedar tree looked harmless with its evergreen leaves and aromatic wood. The deer loved the little apple tree in the side yard. Planting those trees together, however, eventually created an undeniable problem.

Ever known people locked in a similarly detrimental “cedar rust” relationship?

They are wonderful people separately. As a couple or even close friends, they are toxic. Like the cedar and the apple tree, they slowly bring out the worst in each other. One spoils the fruit of the other. They cannot coexist. Just as cedar rust isn’t fatal to trees, people do  survive a bad match. Together, however, they may never be what they might have been separately.

How do you recognize a “cedar rust” relationship? Inspect the fruit. The behavior a relationship produces between two people is either an indicator of spiritual health or symptomatic like cedar galls and apple spots.

“Don’t be misled. Bad company corrupts good character.” 1 Cor 15:33

Jesus expects Christians to bear fruit that lasts. If something or someone becomes a corrupting influence, marring that fruit, take decisive action. Lay an ax at the root of that thing and cut it off.

Think it’s extreme to cut-off a person from your life?  Jesus went so far as to advise cutting off a limb if it causes us to sin. That’s a graphic illustration of what He thinks of spiritual cedar rust.

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