Continuing with the thought from my post yesterday, I want to write about the fruit of the Spirit that is set forth in Galatians.
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. Galatians 5:22-25.
One thing I’ve noticed about this verse is that it uses the singular “fruit” rather than the plural “fruits.” Each of the characteristics listed is not a separate and distinct fruit, but is one characteristic of a single fruit that is born of the Holy Spirit. Just as you might describe the fruit of an orange tree as juicy, sweet, round, orange, segmented, full of vitamins, and thick-skinned, so Paul describes the fruit of the Spirit by its many qualities or characteristics.
If, then, there is only one fruit, as a follower of Christ must I exhibit all of the characteristics of the fruit of the Spirit? Must I be loving, joyful, peaceful, forbearing, kind, good, faithful, gentle, AND self-controlled? I think that the answer to this question is a resounding YES!
If I am in step with the Spirit of God I will exhibit these qualities in some measure. Having contemplated this scripture before this is the conclusion I have always reached. I don’t get to pick and choose which characteristics I will exhibit because unlike choosing a piece of fruit from a bowl full of apples, oranges, grapes, bananas, and kiwi, there is but one fruit of the Spirit to choose.
So why, then, do I not exhibit all of these characteristics in large measure all of the time? Why am I at times not completely kind and loving? Why do I sometimes become impatient and somewhat less than gentle with my neighbor? Why do I not consistently maintain the ability to always eat properly and in proportion to the amount of food I need to survive at a healthy weight? Is it because the Spirit is not generating those qualities in me? Here I think the answer is a resounding NO!
The problem is not with the power and ability of the Spirit of God to produce the fruit of the Spirit in my life. The problem is that I try to produce these qualities on my own so that I might take credit for my own kindness, faithfulness, and peacefulness. The Spirit is willing and able; I know because I have experienced an increase in these qualities in myself when I rely on Him. But I sometimes forget to rely on His power when I am in need of these qualities (which is pretty much always).
So does this mean that I do not have the Spirit of God living in me as He promised if I believe? Going back to the analogy of the orange, I come to the conclusion that the answer again is no. Although an orange has all of the characteristics I listed above, each individual orange has them in different measures. Some oranges have so little juice they seem almost dry; others could fill a glass with juice on their own. Some oranges are so sweet it’s almost like eating honey; others are more sour with only a hint of sweetness. Some oranges are bright orange; others, not yet ripe, are mostly green on the outside. They are all, nonetheless, oranges. None is perfect, just as on his own no Christian is perfect. The ideal orange exists only in Spirit, just as the ideal Christian exists only in Spirit.
I may not be perfect on my own, and never will be. But I choose the fruit of the Spirit. As I purpose to rely more on the power of God’s Holy Spirit living in me, He will cultivate the characteristics of the fruit of the Spirit in my life. Then to Him will go all the glory for the love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control in me.