I’ve been thinking about fruit. I’d like to do a study with my youth group on the Fruit of the Spirit, but the pre written studies feel lame and childish, and frankly I’m not sure that I’m qualified to write my own.
“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.”
-Galatians 5.22-23, NIV
When I was a child in a small private Christian school, we were handed apple shape papers and told to write our names at the top. We then passed the papers around and our classmates would write the fruit of the Spirit they saw in us. This sounds like a very nice exercise, one in which to encourage Christian character.
But I don’t know if you’ve actually met any nine year old privately educated children? They are often not the nicest of individuals. From a character development standpoint, it was a very superficial exercise. We would have done better to examine our own behavior and motivations, privately.
The results were lopsided , as frankly it devolved into the more popular kids getting more fruits attributed to them, whether or not they actually displayed any evidence of them.
My teacher read the writing on the wall and quickly did some math and had everyone exchange the papers with only the children in their row, requiring everyone to put something and limiting the more exuberant to one fruit compliment per peer. And I’m sure there are ten reasons why this should have worked. However the lasting impression for me was one of legalism. Of DIY godliness. Exhibit these characteristics and you have achieved something.
Back to Galatians.
The idea in this passage is not for us to work hard and increase our love, joy and peace as many of us were taught as children.
The idea isn’t even a checklist to see whether or not you have yet attained Christian characteristics.
The idea is to cooperate fully with the Spirit, putting to death our flesh and it’s desires, and then the fruit is born out of that relationship.
We have to look at the verses surrounding the passage in order to get a clear picture.
“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. The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
These are the verses immediately in front of the Fruit of the Spirit, and yet I’ve never seen them cross stitched on a pillow…
Debauchery, idolatry, witchcraft . Those sound especially wicked. So maybe this list doesn’t have anything to do with me…
Oh wait. There it is.
Discord, jealousy, fits of rage…
That sounds a bit more like me.
And if I’m walking in those things, I’m not cooperating with His Spirit.
Luckily, the verse immediately following give me a clue of what to do next.
“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.”
If I belong to Jesus, my job is to keep in step with the Spirit. His job is to develop the fruit in me. I don’t have ti try and muster it up on my own accord. I just have to cooperate fully with Him.
And hopefully, as I do , over time I will find that I’m a little more patient, a little more kind…
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