Red Delicious

For most of the 20th century, the most popular apple in America was the Red Delicious. Iowa farmer Jesse Hiatt discovered a mutant seedling growing on his farm in the 1870’s. First called the “Hawkeye,” the fruit grew steadily in popularity. By the 1940’s it had been renamed the Red Delicious and was the best-selling apple in the country. The Red Delicious continued to be the top-selling apple until 2018. But the truth is few people actually ate the apple in the latter half of the 20th century. Why? Because it had virtually no taste and a corky consistency. The culprit? Breeding mutations that were pleasing to the eye but tasteless mush to the palette. As “The Atlantic” reported:

“Then in the 1990s, new varieties that American growers had originally developed for overseas markets—including the Gala and the Fuji—began to edge into the domestic market. Shoppers had been “eating with their eyes and not their mouths,” Burford said. And now their taste buds had been awakened. A sudden shift in consumer preferences, paired with growing competition from orchards in China, took the industry by surprise. Between 1997 and 2000, U.S. apple growers lost nearly $800 million in surplus crop. They had “made the apples redder and redder, and prettier and prettier, and they just about bred themselves out of existence,” a marketing director for one Northwestern fruit company told The New York Times, shortly after President Bill Clinton approved the largest bailout in the history of the apple industry.”

Once they had options, the public chose apples based on what was on the inside, not the outward appearance. We often make the same mistake when it comes to following what Jesus taught us about loving others:

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40 (NIV)

Jesus didn’t say love the neighbor who looks like you, or love the neighbor who is attractive enough, or owns a big enough house or car. And with the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus made it clear that everyone is our neighbor (Luke 10:25-37). And Jesus embraced (literally and figuratively) those who were rejected by others on sight: lepers, the blind, tax collectors, prostitutes, etc. James similarly warns us against favoritism:

My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? James 2: 1-4 (NIV)

Are we unintentionally selective when we welcome people into our church or our lives? Do we notice, clothes, tattoos or other superficialities before we get to know the person inside? Do we “eat with our eyes and not our mouths” as was the case with the Red Delicious for nearly a century? Apple eaters didn’t know what they were missing until they started looking beyond appearance. Let us strive to see people the way God does, from the inside out. Otherwise, we may miss the opportunity to bless people and be blessed by them which God has in store for us.

This post is republished with permission from Oakbrook Church, De Pere, WI

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