If you frequent craft stores, chances are you’ve seen a decorative sign with this verse on it.
“ But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. “ - Galatians 5:22
I impulsively purchased one during a trip to Hobby Lobby four years ago, bringing home a “fruit of the spirit” sign that was fire-engine red, three feet long and impossible to ignore from my wall as I dressed each morning.
Many times I would stare down the words on that sign and feel inadequate. That decorative piece had become more than just a cheesy interior design choice. It was a representation of the virtuous woman I desperately wanted to be, but couldn’t measure up to no matter how hard I worked. Things like kindness and joy were being produced too slowly for my liking, and it seemed as though I would never become gentle or self-controlled. In the back of my head, I had convinced myself that God would never truly be happy with me if I wasn’t checking off the words on that sign like a grocery list.
There was nothing discouraging in the passage on that decorative sign. The problem was with me, and my inability to understand the application of those words. Galatians 5:22 actually points away from the work we do in our own power while pointing to the work that is still in progress within us, as well as what had already been accomplished for us.
In Galatians, the Apostle Paul writes to wavering Christians to counter the claim that Christians must perform certain rituals, like circumcision, to be accepted by God. Here, Paul contends that Christians are not saved by producing works and behaving virtuously, but does mention that they produce certain works and virtues upon their conversion.
Paul refers to these virtues as the fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Fruit produced by the spirit, not our willpower
If you are a Christian, this passage is likely not new to you. You may have already attempted to grit your teeth and produce Christlike self-control. How long did that last? Maybe you’ve tried to will yourself into joy, only to find yourself more discontent than before. We are largely incapable of working ourselves into fruitfulness, and impatient with how long it takes to show up in our lives.
Have you ever grown a fruit tree in your yard? It takes years for a new tree to produce fruit, and any number of things can make it take even longer. Yet, a gardener can expect that with the right soil, pruning and cultivation a tree will begin bearing fruit.
Our spiritual fruit is no different than fruit grown on a tree. Any Christian with a new heart and the Holy Spirit can anticipate to bear the fruit of the spirit, but it may take time to see. Philippians 1:6 promises us that the work begun in us will be seen through to completion at the day of Christ.
The fruitful life of Christ
The Bible depicts Christ as the ultimate fruit bearer. We see evidence of his unfailing self-control in the face of temptation in Matthew 4. His gentleness with the broken people he encountered is legendary among even non-believers. Of course, all of the qualities mentioned in Galatians 5:22 were on full display as Christ died on the cross.
Jesus offers an example that we could never reproduce perfectly ourselves, but because of his sacrifice we can stand justified in front of God as if we did. His fruit becomes our fruit. Both in eternity, and today.
Examining the fruit
What does it look like for a Christian woman to display the fruit of the spirit in this life? What does it look like to be loving? Peaceful? Faithful?
Over the next year, various women in Karis Church will be writing about each of of the fruits Paul mentions in this passage. Once a month, a blog post will be published on the karischurch.org website. We hope that you will join us each month to learn about what these fruits look like practically, how we can encourage one another in these virtues and what these spiritual fruits looked like in the life of Christ.
October - Love March - Goodness
November - Joy April - Faithfulness
December - Peace May - Gentleness
January - Patience June - Self-control
February - Kindness July - Series wrap-up