22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
— Galatians 5
I’ve been doing a study on the Fruit of the Spirit with a Tuesday night Bible study in slow iterations for a couple months. That study came from my own curiosity and exploration of the fruits. It also came from an epiphany that I had about how the Fruit of the Spirit works.
The version I put up is from the New Living Translation. I’ve been using this version for a little while now, and I have to say it really speaks to me. The way this verse is written is especially good: the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives.
My epiphany we can’t change anyone. You may have a perfect argument, ideally worded with maximum impact, but at the end of the day, you didn’t change anyone’s mind. They had to start that process on their own. They had to be open to change and want to.
So what opens us to change? The Holy Spirit.
The Spirit lives in us as the holy temple of God, like it or not. In believers, the Spirit is alive. I believe the Spirit can also live in, and move in, nonbelievers. But that’s a conversation for another time.
Since we can’t change anyone ourselves, how do we change the mind of someone we know is wrong? How to we appeal to someone who is on a horrible path? How do we speak again to someone who has wronged us? What about those who abuse us? All of this is the work of the Spirit in us and in them. If the spirit is allowed to flourish, the result is fruit. It’s not us producing it, we can’t take any credit for it.
Today I had this thought: why fruit? It’s a plant metaphor, why not leaves? Jesus did say he was the vine and we were the branches. But the spirit isn’t the vine or the branches. The Spirit makes fruit.
I think it’s twofold. The first is the classic sermon: fruit is the sweet product of a plant’s best effort. Fruit is something that’s enticing, it makes the plant more attractive. It gives it greater purpose. Fruit makes you want to have that plant growing near you.
Here is the second: what if the fruit of the spirit is also to feed the Spirit itself? This thought dawned on me as I was reading from the teachings of John Wimber. It wasn’t even about the fruit of the spirit, I was actually reading his writings on a single unified church. It set my thoughts in motion, though. What if the fruit of the spirit is more than just a symbol of our faithfulness? What if it is more than an enticement to come to Christ? What if it really is the thing that makes the Spirit show up?
Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control… these are all things that improve our lives and the lives of those around us. I have been teaching that love is first because it’s a part of all the other fruits. I believe that firmly. I think it’s especially true to welcome the Spirit. If God is love, then appearances of love bring in little glimpses of God. Different shades of love, reflected in the other fruits, show even more of him.
If that’s true, then worship is done when you wilfully stop yourself from losing your temper. Exalting God is done by wishing the genuine best for your enemies. Finding ways to love people better is a songbook of praise. It’s why Paul said we weren’t saved by good works, we were saved for them. This is completed when the Spirit moves in, takes over, and produces worship in our hearts and fruits in our lives.