We love fruit in our family. Fresh fruit, canned fruit, dried fruit, jammed fruit, fruit from our own garden, or fruit from the other side of the world. We love citrus fruit, stone fruit, berries… Fruit can be a taste of the familiar or the tang of the exotic. We love to eat it raw, to bake it into recipes, to puree it into smoothies. Last week, I even learned to make homemade fruit roll-ups. With a kiddo who despises vegetables, fruit is often the way I get much-needed nutrients into all of us. And a much-appreciated taste of yumminess too.
Fruit is a pretty amazing thing. As a homeschool mom, I’ve had the opportunity to study it with my kids in our science classes. And as a Christian, I of course read about it a lot in the scriptures. For instance, take this passage from Colossians 1:3-6
3 We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, 4 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints; 5 because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel, 6 which has come to you, as it has also in all the world, and is bringing forth fruit, as it is also among you since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth… (NKJV, emphasis mine)
To take out some of the phrases there for focusing purposes, that says “because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, which you heard in the gospel, which is bringing forth fruit.”
Now, anyone who knows me even a little knows that hope and I are good friends. I’m not only an optimist, I’m a see-the-good-in-everyone sort of person, a cling-to-hope-at-all-costs sort of girl. So any time the word is mentioned in the Bible, my spiritual ears perk right up. As we were discussing this passage in our Bible study last week, my mind kept circling around those particular words. Hope comes from the Gospel…the Gospel brings forth fruit.
As we talked about what this fruit is, it’s easy to come up with the usual answer: spreading that same Good News to others so that they can believe too. Yes, absolutely.
But, with memories of strawberries and blueberries and mango and peaches still fresh in my mind from my fruit roll-up making adventure a couple days before, I had to look at this a little more closely.
In other passages, we hear of the Gospel message as a seed. It’s planted, watered, fed. As it sprouts, the seed itself passes away and becomes a plant. It’s no longer a seed at all–it’s changed. Transformed. Why? So that it can become something more.
I love that it’s likened to a fruit-bearing plant though. Because part of the very nature of a plant is to spread its seeds. WHY do we bear fruit? Love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, gentleness, self-control? For OTHERS.
One of the things I learned in our science class is that the plant itself doesn’t benefit at all from the fruit it bears. The sole purpose of it is to be delicious. Alluring. To appeal to animals so that they come, eat it, and thereby transport the seeds elsewhere, so that they’re deposited far and wide and the plant can find new life somewhere else.
So what is the purpose of us learning to produce those fruits of the Spirit? Not for our own sake–for His. So that others come, smell the fragrance of His peace, see the beauty of His love, taste the perfection of His Joy. Our job as Christ followers is to share those things with anyone who walks by hungry. So that they eat of it, and the seed nestles deep inside. So that He can water it and it can grow. And so that then that person too can experience the transformative power of God and turn from fallow ground with a dried up seed inside to a life-giving, thriving tree spreading out their limbs and offering His love to others.
I’d always considered the Fruits of the Spirit to be things we should want for our own sakes; or for their own sakes. Because they’re, well, good. Because they’ll make us better people. Holier. More worthy of Him. And that’s certainly true…
But that’s only half the story, isn’t it? The other half isn’t about us at all. It’s about THEM. The other people in our world. Our spouses and children, our parents and grandparents, and our aunts, uncles, and cousins. Our friends, our neighbors, the strangers in the grocery store. The drivers who cut us off and the customer service rep who won’t listen. The homeless man begging for money on the street corner. The mother desperate for clean water in Africa.
Each and every one of them needs the fruit–because that fruit carried the seeds of the Gospel, and that’s where our hope is found.
I don’t know about you, but that changes my perspective a bit on why I should be working hard to be the person He wants me to be.
And it makes me look at my beloved fruit differently too. My daughter and I joke that the orange marmalade we made is “sunshine in a jar” (because seriously!)–but it’s not only that. In a way, it’s hope in a jar too. A reminder that the goodness of others is our nourishment…and that our own ought to be theirs in return.