Lots of people enjoy pastries, and they can be even more tempting when they are fruit-filled. The fruit at the core is a flavor enhancer, making the pastry all the more attractive. You see where I’m going with this metaphor! My plea is for Christian communities to strive to keep their “fruit-filling.” The teaching in Galatians 5 includes this observation and admonition:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
“Fruit” is the apostle Paul’s metaphor for what Christians ought to be producing in our lives. The fruit stands in sharp contrast to attitudes and behaviors that most often lead to the destruction of healthy relationships and also tend to damage our own psyches. Yet the list of fruit doesn’t appear to be very electrifying; there’s no emphasis here on miracles or flashy signs of any sort. In fact, there is much here that all people, even non-Christians would admire. But Paul is clear that these virtues flow from the Holy Spirit of God. Evidence of the presence of God’s Spirit among the Christian community include such virtues that are easy to pronounce and define but difficult to practice.
Although this list seems simple and even somewhat unexciting for some Christians, I maintain that the practice and growth in such virtues is critically important. We need to keep reflecting on this list, especially in our politicized culture with its highly contentious issues. We’ve all seen the war of words on social media between people claiming to be brothers and sisters in the faith. At times it can be quite disheartening.
I recently came across this blog post, exploring why Christians “don’t play nice.” The author deals with how Christians can disagree on such tough topics that face us today by emphasizing love, which happens to be the first on the list of fruit of the Spirit.
I suggest that all these virtues need to be at the center of our community’s life, like a bowl of fruit as the centerpiece on the table–visible for all to see. To that end I am starting a new sermon series on May 12 on the Fruit of the Spirit at my church, Sanctuary Covenant Church. My hope is that we can encourage each other to put ourselves in the best environment so that we can allow the Holy Spirit to make our lives more fruitful. Just as fruit trees grow not by their own effort, but by being in the right environment (e.g., with light, nutrients, water), Christians can see fruit grow in our lives not simply by trying harder (a recipe for failure), but by putting ourselves in the right environment so that God will bring about growth. It’s that environment, among other things, that I want to examine in my sermon series.
Hopefully, as we mature in our faith, we will be more known for the fruit of the Spirit in our lives than for what we don’t like about the culture. After all, a fruit-filled center is delicious.