10. Producing FruitAs we continue to look at the theme of gardening in Scripture, the purpose of the planting is to produce fruit. In the fruit are found the seeds for reproducing what has been planted and the nourishment needed for life.
As we continue to look at the theme of gardening in Scripture—whether in reference to the Garden of Eden, the trees of Psalm 1 that never whither, the tree of life of Revelation 22, the flowering desert of Isaiah 35 or the vine and branches of John 15—the purpose of the planting is to produce fruit. In the fruit are found the seeds for reproducing what has been planted and the nourishment needed for life (i.e., bread).
Paul, in writing to his early converts in the Galatia region of Asia Minor says, “For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God’s grace” (Galatians 5:4). He goes on to say, “What is important is faith expressing itself in love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Galatians 5:6,14) With the Holy Spirit controlling our lives (behaviors), we will produce fruit: “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” (Galatians 5:22-23).
Unfortunately, we often use this list of fruit as a telescope for examining other people instead of as a mirror to look at our own behavior. When we see someone who is mean or harsh or joyless, we think we can determine their level of holiness. Paul gives this list not to use to look at others but so that we can examine our own actions and gauge who is actually controlling our lives. How patient or gentle are our actions towards others? Can we be counted on and have control of our appetites (desires), or are we living out of control? Do we bring strife or peace to a situation? An honest answer to this self-evaluation can reveal exactly who is ruling our lives.
I often hear people pray for joy or goodness or patience. Fruit trees don’t decide to produce certain types of fruit—it is just what happens when they are being the tree that they are supposed to be. Likewise, we don’t get to decide which fruit we like or which one fits our personality. The Greek word for fruit is singular, not plural. And the best way to view this fruit is not as apples and oranges but a cluster of grapes. The fruit produced by the Spirit is love, as indicated in the context of Galatians 5, and Paul’s list is a description of love in action. And don’t think the list is exhaustive. Paul could also include forgiveness, agreeing with each other, and obedience to the actions that the Spirit produces by abiding in us (just to name a few examples).
Jesus says it this way, “A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions” (Matthew 7:17-20). What type of identity do you want the people around you to see in you? As followers of Christ, our deeds should be deeds of love. Our lost world needs to see demonstrations of peace and patience, kindness and gentleness. We are to represent Christ with lives that are under control, full of joy, faithful and good.
Remember what I said earlier. In the fruit are the seeds for reproduction. Just as God designed the plant to reproduce through the fruit, He has designed us to produce fruit that will reproduce these actions in others. When acts of kindness are witnessed by others, they will be encouraged to show kindness to others. When gentleness and patience are displayed, we will see these actions repeated in the communities in which we live.
Are you bothered by the anger and bickering we see in the world around us? As you allow the Holy Spirit to abide in you, filling you (Ephesians 5:18), producing fruit–you will see God at work, replacing evil with good. “Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ” (Ephesians 5:1-2).
Lt. Colonel Dean Hinson is the secretary for Spiritual Life Development in the USA Southern Territory.