One fruit, many nuances of flavor.
Sometimes I feel condemnation when I read God’s Word, because I fail to measure up. I realize what Romans 8:1-7 tells me, but the qualifier prevents me from easily claiming the passage and applying it to myself. It is a promise, “to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” Can I claim to walk according to the Spirit? The problem is, I just don’t know. If I truly bore the Holy Spirit’s fruit, would I have any doubt?
According to Galatians 5:22-25, the foremost flavor of God’s Spiritual fruit, indeed, its very essence, is love. Where is my love? What does it look like? Loving those who love me is easy, but what of those who despise me and everything I stand for? Do I truly love them?
God’s word doesn’t tell me to feel loving toward such haters, but it does tell me to treat them well, to meet their needs, to show them grace, because that is the way Jesus treated His enemies. Do I go out of my way to show that sort of love to those who refuse to receive it? I don’t want to admit my honest answer to that question.
So, what about joy, the second flavor of the Spirit’s fruit? When I feel loved, or experience good fortune, I feel joy, and that’s only natural. But therein lies the problem; it is natural joy, and not joy from God’s Spirit. Is the joy I feel simply an emotional response to some favorable stimulus? If I don’t feel loved, but feel threatened, insecure, angry, inpatient, or doubtful, what of the Holy Spirit’s joy then? In the Holy Spirit’s context, joy must underlay all other emotions, whether negative or positive. In the flesh, that is impossible.
Like joy, the Holy Spirit’s peace must transcend all human emotions. This peace is not simply a lack of conflict, as the world defines it. The Holy Spirit’s peace comes from reconciliation with God. When I know that He no longer recognizes my sins, but has chosen to forget them completely, as if they never happened, peace overwhelms me, and all that inner conflict about falling short of His expectations just evaporates away. That’s the peace that defies understanding(Philippians 4:6-7).
Another flavor of the fruit of God’s Spirit is longsuffering, or patience, as the more contemporary versions translate it. Personally, I prefer the longer word, not because it’s longer, but because it paints a more vivid picture in my mind. Apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthians 13:4, tells us that love, “suffers long,” and I love that idea; love is willing to suffer(endure, not passively, but passionately), and to keep on suffering indefinitely. God expresses that idea most strongly in Psalms 27:14, where He tells us twice to wait on the LORD.
Kindness goes right along with the first four flavors combined in one sweet fruit of the Spirit. I think these five could be characterized under one label: grace, both God’s grace toward us and our grace toward those around us. Even if the fruit of God’s Spirit didn’t go any further, it would be the most beautiful of produce. But it does include more flavors, and each of the following four could stand alone under the category of Christlike character.
Jesus said, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but One, that is God.” (Mark 10:18) Obviously, then, goodness is a “God thing.” Yet, the fruit of God’s Spirit includes goodness demonstrated in us. That fact, as much as any other, tells us that God must live within us if we are to bear His spiritual fruit.
In the same way as goodness, as God is faithful, we must be faithful as well if we are to bear His fruit. That means consistently being good to our word, truthful and honest. I’ll be the first to admit that such faithfulness is unnatural behavior for me, and is a tall order in this unfaithful, lying and dishonest world. Yet, we are not of this world, are we? (John 17:16)
The next flavor of God’s Spiritual fruit is gentleness. Am I wrong, or is each new characteristic becoming more challenging? God’s church has picked up the idea that we must stand militantly for our beliefs. After all, Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 9:33, “as it is written, ‘Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.'” So there you go; God told us to be as offensive as needed to get our point across. Right?
Wrong! Jesus is the Stone of stumbling and Rock of offense, not individual Christ-followers. If we are to bear the true fruit of God’s Spirit, we will behave with gentleness of spirit and mildness of disposition. In other words, meekness, just as Jesus did when he faced the kangaroo court of religious Jews.
But wait, it gets even harder; the last flavor of God’s Spiritual fruit is self-control. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I have no natural self-control. But if it came naturally, it wouldn’t be from God, right? That means, at least for me, when I demonstrate self-control, as sitting at this keyboard for hours writing this stuff, I must be demonstrating the fruit of God’s Spirit. And the fact that you’ve sat reading this far demonstrates a good deal of supernatural self-control as well.
So that ends this particular list. I dealt with the fruit of God’s Spirit because the preceding few verses of this chapter reveal the works of the flesh (Gal 5:19-21), and I much prefer dealing with positives rather than negatives.
Remember, “against such things (the fruit of God’s Spirit) there is no law.” Oh, one other thing: Matthew 12:33 “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit.”