Monday, January 5, 2015

Fruit of the Spirit

The...fruit of the Spirit's not an apple. The...fruit of the Spirit's not an apple. If you wanna be an apple, you might as well hear it: you can't be the fruit of the Spirit. 

Now that I've got you singing that song for the rest of the day, let's talk about the fruit of the Spirit. Because I've always had this conception in my head that the fruit of the Spirit is like a grove where you go about picking a little off the joy tree and a little off the gentleness tree and a little off the self-control tree until you find yourself with a cocktail all the good things God offers - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

But they aren't called the "fruits" of the Spirit. The word, in the original Greek, is in the singular. This is the "fruit" of the Spirit. One kind of fruit, from one Spirit. It means if you were picking it, you wouldn't come home with grapes and apples and oranges and peaches and persimmons and nectarines; you'd come home with apples. All apples. All the same type of apple. All with the same juice running through them.

The trouble is we've convinced ourselves that all these things are somehow different, that we can have, say, love without joy. Or peace without patience. Or kindness without goodness. Gentleness without self-control. Faithfulness without any of the rest of it.

What Paul reminds us in this passage is that really, we can't. What is love without joy? Love delights in the other for no reason at all but love, and it is joy that allows us to delight at all. Peace often requires waiting; can a man wait without patience? Then where is his peace? Goodness gives a man a measure of himself; kindness gives that away. Can a man without himself give any of himself away? Of course not! Gentleness is tenderness or softness, and it is only by a man's ability to hold himself in (self-control) that he can offer that softness. All of these fruits, all this fruit, is one and the same. You cannot simply pick off the love tree and fill your basket with love; you get it all. 

One Spirit, one tree.

Which means that all of your efforts to work on one of those fruits will fail unless you're consciously working on all of them. So often we say, "I'm going to be a more loving person" or "I'm going to exercise better self-control," which may be all well and good and even well-intentioned, but unless you are working on love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control all at once, you will not effect a lasting result. You can, by a matter of sheer will, be faithful for awhile. You can, with incredible conscious effort, be gentle for a season. You can pretend to love for a little while. But eventually, your strength wanes because you have never actually eaten the fruit; you have not nourished your spirit. You have not eaten of the tree. 

That's not to say it's as simple as having love, joy, peace, patience....or not having them. It's not. More on that tomorrow.

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