In Galatians chapter 5, we read a well-known passage. It’s been memorized. It’s been turned into more than one song for kids to remember it easily. It’s a list many of us run through mentally to keep ourselves in check…
“By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.”
Often we are tempted casually to treat these things the same way we would the “gifts” of the Spirit found in 1 Corinthians 12:8-13. That we may have especially gifted in one or two of these areas, and the others are meant to carry the load where we are weak. I’m great at love and joy, so let someone else cover me in the area of generosity or gentleness. That’s the balance of my fruit basket.
Until we look at the language used by Paul, and understand where he was coming from. Paul says “the fruit of the Spirit is…”. He does not say “the fruits of the Spirit are…”. As in the Greek concept of the cardinal virtues that Paul was very familiar with, to have one – the others must be present. Paul is saying here that a community that experiences the presence of the Spirit in their lives will have the complete “fruit” as listed. I suppose that’s also worth noting, that Paul is speaking to a community. This fruit of the Spirit is the gift of God’s grace, but also cultivated by an entire community, not an isolated individual.
It is also important to note the presence of “self-control” at the end. I posted a few thoughts recently on self-control. Often we can be lured into the false assumption that if I pray “Jesus come into my heart”, and His Spirit is presently working in our lives, this is the fruit that will naturally begin to be harvested. If it was something that would come naturally, without effort on our part…then why add “self-control” to it all?
The truth is, much like tending an orchard, the fruit does begin to show up..often in supernatural ways. Giving our lives to God, after all, is an infinitely compelling life change. But it takes effort on our part as well. Pruning away branches, cultivating the soil, keeping away birds and squirrels, etc. Otherwise this would simply be another list talking about the “gifts” of the Spirit.
May we each seek to cultivate the Spirits’ “love-joy-peace-patience-kindness-generosity-faithfulness-gentleness-self-control” in our lives this week….