“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22, 23)
Many years ago, I had my first conscious encounter with the joy of the Lord. It wasn’t tied to any particular event, but was an attitude I held within over a period of months. I was pregnant at the time and what I learned affected me so much I named the child I was carrying Joy.
It’s hard to describe what I was feeling, but this sense of joy kept bubbling up inside of me, little bits of effervescence that tickled and showed me life from a different paradigm.
I realize now it wasn’t just joy I was experiencing but also peace, love, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance, all in their nascent forms.
I’ve always heard the Galatians passage read as though there are nine fruits of the Spirit. The word fruit can imply one, an in the fruit of the tree, or many; there is a fruit stand. Fruits (with an s) is also used interchangeably with fruit to mean many. Personally, I think there is only one fruit of the spirit; some aspects can be more prominent, but you can’t have one without the other eight.
The Christian life has to display such fruit. In Matthew 7:16, Jesus warns against false prophets, saying we will recognize them by their bad fruits, and by extension, those who are sincerely following Christ will be recognized by their good fruits.
The continuous cultivation of fruit is work as I have learned since moving to B.C. There are pruning, watering, fertilizing and then dealing with whatever circumstances the weather throws out. An untended tree can still produce fruit, but it is often small and not worth eating, while a tended tree can produce in abundance.
I see this in my own life. When I attend services regularly and maintain my own prayer life, I find I can handle the circumstances around me with grace, even if there isn’t any reason to rejoice. But if I am neglectful then I am at the mercy of every changing circumstance since my fruit is small and easily damaged.
Lately, I have come to realize I have been sabotaging my own fruit. C.S. Lewis puts it succinctly in Mere Christianity:
“Suppose one reads a story of filthy atrocities in the paper. Then suppose that something turns up suggesting that the story might not be quite true, or not quite so bad as it was made out. Is one’s first feeling, ‘Thank God, even they aren’t quite so bad as that,’ or is it a feeling of disappointment, and even a determination to cling to the first story for the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies as bad as possible? If it is the second, then it is, I am afraid, the first step in a process which, if followed to the end, will make us into devils. You see, one is beginning to wish that black was a little blacker. If we give that wish its head, later on we shall wish to see grey as black, and then to see white itself as black. Finally, we shall insist on seeing everything — God and our friends and ourselves included — as bad, and not be able to stop doing it; we shall be fixed for ever in a universe of pure hatred.”
“A universe of pure hatred” where no fruit of the Spirit can grow. Is my fruit grown on holy wood or on Hollywood? Watching stories where people are motivated by anger to right wrongs builds those same feelings in me. News clips of violent protests, listening to people spewing hatred and contempt for others, affects me and my fruit production. What is my spiritual nourishment? Hearing about injustice should motivate me to act, but will I respond with love or hatred, drawing men closer to God or pushing them further away?
“Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” (Galatians 6:7)
“the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.” (Galatians 5:22)
“But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13)