Be fruitful rather than nice

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What is your favourite fruit? Why? Is it the flavour, the colour, the texture or perhaps you associate some happy memory with that fruit?

During recent ICL services I have been speaking the ‘fruit of the Spirit’. No, this is not some new exotic product from the drinks industry but something written about in the Bible.  In Galatians 5:22-23, we can read,

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (New International Version)

Nine character fruits listed for people’s lives. Fruit with different ‘flavours’ and ‘textures’ when seen in our lives.

I am aware that all kinds of people may be reading this, some who would count themselves as Christians and others not. However you view Christian faith, I want to give a few thoughts.

These fruits are a work of the Holy Spirit, that is from God. This isn’t meant as a checklist for self-improvement by our own efforts alone. Therefore we can ask God in prayer that our lives grow in such fruitfulness. Yes we have a part to play but it is not just to be our own doing.

It is good to find out more about these fruits. If you wanted to start growing mango trees for instance, you would be wise to do some research rather than just put a sapling in a pot on a window sill! When it comes to the fruit of the Spirit, it is also good to find out more. So why not over the summer, take one or two of the fruits and look up what the Bible has to say on these? Think about how this fruit is relevant for real life.

Much of the fruit may not be evident unless we are interacting with others. For instance, we may think we are full of patience. Yet what happens when we are with someone we find more difficult or when we are amongst others in a traffic jam?  So if you want to grow in fruitfulness, don’t be surprised that it will be as you rub shoulders with others.

When you look at the list, is there a fruit that stands out? Why do you think that it stands out to you? Is it a fruit you sense is lacking in your life and you want to grow in? Is it one that you are not sure what it means or how it is relevant to your life? Whichever one stands out, what will you do in response?

Don’t assume that this is just about being ‘nice people’. It could be easy to read words like love, kindness, gentleness and think it is just about people being ‘nice’. Yet I don’t think Christ in calling people to follow him is making a rallying cry ‘come and be nice!’ (not that we are called to be horrid of course!) Plus issues raised by movements such as Black Lives Matter or #MeToo require far more than just niceness. How might the fruit of the Spirit be relevant? (not got space to open all that up here).

Truly being loving for instance as demonstrated by Christ on the cross is sacrificial and has real substance to it. In light of Christ’s love, what might loving your neighbour as yourself look like in reality? Is there someone specific who comes to mind? Or a group of people? Is there prejudice in our lives that needs the fruit of love, among others, to help to break down?On one occasion, Christ said, Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God’(Matthew 5:9). Another time, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you” (John 14:27)  When we think of some of the circumstances in our lives or in the wider world, peace is a very relevant fruit to live in and for and certainly not always easy to see come about in conflict situations.

The call is to be fruitful, not just to be nice!

I could write on but I will leave it at that for now. You can hear talks already given about the fruit of love, joy and peace via the ICL YouTube Channel: