“Be kind and be truthful, and life will be fruitful.” –Anonymous
Not All Fruits are Good
Have you ever bought a beautiful red apple from the grocery store, thinking, from its appearance, it was going to be juicy and sweet? Then, gotten home, washed it, and bit into it dry bitterness instead of succulent sweet juices?
The quality of a fruit isn’t in its outward appearance.
Contrast the above apple with a pineapple. Pineapples have hard, prickly outer surfaces. Had I never seen nor tasted one before, there’s no way I’d expect it to be full of syrupy nectar. It’s quality isn’t readily apparent. It’s ripeness depends on what’s inside.
Sweet and Bitter Fruits
According to the Bible, each person produces fruits–whether they be good fruits or bad. The quality of his or her life’s produce can’t always be discerned by the eye. It isn’t found in “blessings” of worldly riches and worth. It isn’t measured by physical health. It isn’t counted in status “likes” and “shares.” The worth is in internal constitution. If the spirit is holy, the fruits will be good and sweet. If a person acts (sows) contrary to the Holy Spirit, the fruits will be bitter.
The quality of one’s fruits is defined in Galatians chapter 5. The Apostle Paul juxtaposes fleshly, bitter fruits with sweet, spiritual ones. Spiritual fruits, Paul said, were acts committed through love. Love gives the fruit a sweet flavor. That sweetness–born of the internal Spirit–can’t be discerned outwardly. The “fruits” of the Spirit are, thus, manifestations of internal holiness acting in service–love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance (verses 22 and 23).
Bitter, Selfish Fruits
The fleshly fruits, in contrast, were acts of self, born of selfish motives that did not serve, aid, or assist others. The Hebrew text says these were “evident” and “open to the eyes of all.” The Galatians had allowed such sins to manifest in bitter fruits of discord among their congregation. The glaringly apparent are idolatry, witchcraft, murder, and drunkenness. However, between these are some often-overlooked bitter spots:
- Hatred. An extreme aversion and hostility toward another. This sneaks in a person’s heart with such subtlety, it’s easily overlooked. However, it’s manifested in acts of ill-will and derogation toward one’s neighbors. He who seeks to destroy–not help nor correct–his neighbor manifests hatred.
- Variance. “Inconsistent,” false, fake, double-minded, indifferent, or acting with cool disaffection. The chameleon who changes his colors depending on who he’s around serves himself, not his neighbor, and not God.
- Emulations. Copying, imitating, mimicking others, void of sincerity, for the selfish goal of social acceptance, power, position. The selfish social capital usually comes as an expense to one’s neighbor.
- Wrath. Extreme aggravation, irritation, resentment. It manifests in quick blows–sharp scornful looks, hurtful words, huffy utterances, retaliatory measures. Wrath shames, humiliates, and degrades others.
- Strife. One-upping and antagonizing others. This also includes disputing and interfering–inserting one’s nose in another’s business, stirring some proverbial pot.
- Seditions. Conspiracies against another, plots, tricks, schemes, breaches of trust, double-dealing against.
- Envyings. Along with wrath, strife, and sedition, envy is usually born out of jealousy or resentment. These often manifest in malice, ill-will, malicious disregard, and begrudging–the building of oneself by tearing down another.
Christians must be mindful. They should check their motivations. These are harmful, unsavory fruits–and the Bible is clear that “they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:21). Many of these fruits can look like the ripest red apple, while being inwardly poisonous.
Love–The Sweetest Savor
When Christians act in love–the first of the Spirit’s fruits–all other produce is sweet. Perfect love casts out fear. Fearless, authentic Christians stand up for what’s right, even when it’s unpopular or difficult. They examine whether they’ve done all they can to communicate and clarify to, empathize and connect with, advocate and plead for, encourage, sustain, aid, protect, comfort, and support brothers and sisters. They don’t do what’s easy. They do what’s good. The Spirit doesn’t act bitterly for self. Its freedom is in service for others.