There’s nothing quite like eating a great peace of fruit. If it’s an apple — which it should be…apples are my favorites! — then its color is perfect and it has just right right amount of crunch and juiciness. Mmm!
But very rarely do I consider that the fruit that I love to eat is the fruit of a lot of hard work and labor!
Think about it. An apple comes from an orchard. And an orchard must be cared for.
The trees need watering. The weeds need pulling. The dead leaves, limbs, and fruit need pruning. The apples need picking. And the final product needs selling, packing, and shipping.
That’s a lot of work!
Fruit of the Spirit
Well, I think a similar blind spot has been a part of my Christian development as well. When I read the famous passage in Galatians 5.22-23 about the fruit of the Spirit, I tend to think about each aspect of the fruit as a final product. Honestly, I rarely think about what goes into the production of the fruit of the Spirit in the life of a believer, whether in me or anyone else!
Maybe it’s the way that Paul wrote about the fruit of the Spirit:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
I mean, they’re just so consumable individually spelled out like that, right? They’re all there in a nice little row, one right after another.
And in my experience in the Church, whether teaching/preaching/leading or being the recipient of the same, this is the way the fruit of the Spirit is taught.
Let me be a bit more specific: When we think about it, we tend to think about the fruit of the Spirit as an opportunity to engage in character development.
Character Development vs. _____________?
Now don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with having one’s character developed as he or she follows Jesus. I know mine needs some work! I could be a bit more patient (that’s the understatement of the century, just ask my wife, parents, sister, friends, and coworkers!) and exhibit more self-control.
And according to the way I was taught to think about the fruit, my course of action when I realize I’m lacking in some aspect of the fruit of the Spirit is to work on that specific aspect. So, when I realize that I’m not as kind as a I should be, I work on being kinder. When I’m not as peaceful as I’d like to be, I exercise my peace muscles.
Unfortunately, this is akin to forgetting the processes behind the fruit at the supermarket.
And, friends, there is a major process behind the fruit of the Spirit — namely, walking with the Spirit!
A Spirit-Synced Way of Life
Paul spells this out rather explicitly in Galatians 5.16-18:
So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
Before he gets to the fruit of the Spirit — the things which are brought to fruition because of a life lived synced up with the Spirit — Paul tells us what produces this fruit…walking by the Spirit or being led by the Spirit!
This phrase (walking by/being led by the Spirit) is great for a number of reasons:
- It implies an active lifestyle of following Jesus as opposed to the popular passive/getting-fed mode that lots of Christians (myself included!) are tempted to fall into.
- It reminds us that we need to be walked with — we can’t do this thing alone. We need grace and guidance from the moment we’re first alive until the moment we die. And God gladly will hold our little hands through that whole journey!
- And it means that following Jesus isn’t about me, people like me, my church, my country, or my standards. Nope. It’s about being led by the Spirit!
So instead of focusing on each different aspect of the fruit, shouldn’t we focus on how walking with the Spirit brings each aspect to fruition? In other words, shouldn’t we focus more on the process and a bit less on the results?
What do you think? Do you tend to think about the fruit of the Spirit as an opportunity to engage in character development? Or do you tend to think about the fruit of the Spirit as the result of Spirit-synced way of life? Let me know in the comments below!