We’ve all heard the saying “one bad apple spoils the whole bunch,” and have probably seen instances where it does apply to people, but does it actually happen with fruit?
Yes. As they ripen, some fruits, like apples and pears, produce a gaseous hormone called ethylene, which is, among other things, a ripening agent. When you store fruits together, the ethylene each piece emits prods the others around them to ripen further, and vice versa. (Fun tip: Want to quickly ripen an avocado? Stick it in a paper bag with an apple overnight.)
The riper a piece of fruit is, the more ethylene it produces, and overripe fruit gives off even more ethylene, eventually leading to a concentration of the gas that’s enough to overripen all the fruit. Given the right conditions and enough time, one apple can push all the fruit around it to ripen—and eventually rot.
Additionally, an apple that is infested with mold will contaminate other fruit it’s stored with as the mold seeks additional food sources and spreads. In both cases, it actually does take just one single apple to start a domino chain that ruins the rest of the bunch.
The above article by Matt Soniak (December 3, 2012) found in Mental Floss demonstrates the science behind the old adage of “one bad apple…” and brings to mind the Bible’s, “Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals” (1 Corinthians 15:33 ESV).
Now, one must begin to wrestle with the biblical tension behind being corrupted by bad company and at the same time being with “bad company” with the goal of bringing them to salvation through faith in Christ. We have not been called to live in a bubble, but to be in the world but not of the world (c.f. John 17:15-16) as lights in the world (c.f. Matthew 5:14).
One, of several, ways of living out the tension is to live in the biblical context of community. By surrounding ourselves with “good company,” with those who care for us spiritually, we will have those who can encourage us in our reaching out to the world but can also speak those words of tough love to let us know if we have started to be morally spoiled in the process. In the context of Christian community, we can shine as lights to the world while also helping one another be transformed unto godliness and help safeguard one another from beginning to rot. In community, we can help one another influence the world around us for Christ and not become influenced by the world away from Christ.