A few weeks ago, I was brought to tears by the vulnerability of a friend. In an online post, he shared about an incident with his son. My friend had completely lost his temper and gotten to the point where he recognized fear in his son’s eyes.
It was enough to get his attention and gave him space to regain his composure. Though my friend had grown up in church, his faith journey has led him away from the church and organized religion for the past few years. However, in that moment of personal crisis, the subsequent conversation with his son turned to the fruit of the Spirit.
In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he contrasts a life lived “in the flesh” with one lived “in the spirit.” We read there, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
My friend sat with his son and went through each one of these, courageously asking, “Do you feel that I am more loving than I was a few years ago? More joyful? More patient? More kind?”
He said that listening to his son’s honesty was the wake up call he needed. He noted that for years he had been running on fumes and failing to return to the Source for nourishment. For years, he had run from his own childhood experiences only to recreate a similar dynamic with his own son.
In our effort to bring about change, how often do we end up recreating the very thing against which we cry out? Riots. Debates. Protests. Campaigns. Nominations. Pandemics. Masks. Anger. Hatred. Malice. Confusion. Violence.
Look in the mirror, friends. Is this the world we want? Is this what Jesus meant when he announced that the Kingdom of God was at hand? Is this what it means for people of faith to bear the name “Christian” in our world?
What did Jesus say, after all? “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.”
Did you catch that? You will know them by their fruit.
We will not bear this fruit on our own, however. It’s not the “fruit of Steven,” after all. It is the fruit of the Spirit. My task, then, is to be a good gardener. If I want the Spirit’s fruit to be manifest in me, I need to make sure that the conditions are right for growth.
I could do some watering, immersing myself in the nourishment of spiritual practices like prayer, silence, listening to God’s word. I could do a little weeding, removing those things that choke out life and love, things that distract me and cause me to keep other’s at arm’s length. I could sink my roots into the life-giving soil of community, forgiveness, grace, mercy, and truth.
Maybe it’a time for a little heart check, a social media check, a text message check, and a conversation check. What does your fruit say about the status of your heart?