No Surprise Here
Anyone who’s even passingly familiar with Christianity is probably familiar with the fruits of the Spirit (or should be). It’s easy to slavishly rattle them off like a check-list of to-dos:
Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
That’s why I think the Message’s fresh approach is worthy of attention:
But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely. Galatians 5:22
We’re sometimes tempted to think of fruit as the product of hard agricultural labour.
Well, sure, fruit takes attentiveness.
But on our own, our efforts to grow fruit are about as productive as running flat-out in a hamster wheel.
A Better Picture of Fruit
Hey, full disclosure: I’m not a really big fan of fruit. Everybody in my life knows that. It’s a common joke with my family and colleagues. But I have an appreciation of fruit as a metaphor that I think is worth sharing.
As a missionary, my Dad took his students on outreach trips. One of these provided a picture which has become formative for how I think about spiritual fruit.
On one trip into the bush, they arrived at the zenith of watermelon harvest. Watermelons started coming one-by-one, carried on the heads of women. Then two-by-two, carried by men. Then they were delivered by wheel-barrow. And finally a donkey cart, stacked to the sky!
These watermelons are not cut into dainty little cubes, or even triangle slices. They are hacked with a machete-sized knife into full length wedges.
With so many watermelons on hand, they could all afford to be picky. If a watermelon was cut into, and wasn’t juicy enough, it would go to the livestock, and another would be chosen.
Watermelons were consumed eagerly, indelicately, satisfying hunger and thirst simultaneously, amid the smiles, laughter and easy conversation of new friends.
Dad brought one home with him, and our family ate it like they did in the village. It was hilarious. We ate it outside in the front yard and my brother, 3 at the time, was stripped naked so he could easily be hosed off when we were done — a smart move, as it turned out.
Eating fruit like that is not a prim and tidy experience. The juice runs off your chin and elbows.
It gets all over you!
The Whole Point!
This is about “exuberance of life” — fruits of the Spirit are not a grind. They are the very signs of life!
Maybe we need to raise our standards.
Maybe we need to live into a heightened appreciation of abundance.
And maybe, just maybe, it’s time to discard a few of the less-than-satisfactory fruits we’ve been snacking on.
If we are the witnesses of an extravagantly generous God, our lives should probably resemble that.