Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Fruits of the Spirit or Bitter Fruits?

In his letter to the Galatians, St. Paul lists nine “fruits of the spirit” (not to be confused with Fruit of the Loom). The fruits of the spirit are the attitudes and attributes of a person who is fully in tune with the will of God and who lives a very Christlike life. The fruits are: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

If we are honest, there are very few people nowadays who embody all of these nine characteristics. Actually, there are fewer and fewer people these days who embody ANY of these nine characteristics.

Some of the fruits of the spirit are the foundation of the Christian worldview: faithfulness and love. If we don’t have faith, if we don’t believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then we are not going to know that love must be the essence of a Christian’s life. A quick look at our modern culture makes it very clear that many people no longer have faith in God, and as a result, true sacrificial love has been replaced by selfish lust, and the results are not pretty.

Other fruits of the spirit are the direct result of having faith and expressing that faith through love. These are: joy, peace, kindness, and generosity. These fruits are not things we can set out to achieve and then work toward them. They are the byproducts of doing other things properly, that is, of having faith in Christ and being filled with His love. If someone has true faith and demonstrates an abundance of love toward others, that person also will be filled with joy and peace, with kindness and generosity soon following. Two-thousand years of Christian history proves beyond a doubt this is true.

The three remaining fruits of the spirit are the ones we have the most control over: patience, gentleness, and self-control. Unfortunately, our modern culture practically demands that we do the exact opposite of these three fruits.

First, let’s consider patience. We live in an instant gratification society. If people do not get what they want immediately, they go bonkers. Just think of all the modern products and services available that emphasize “instant relief,” “same-day service,” or “overnight delivery.” This reminds me of my favorite prayer: “Lord, please give me patience—and I want it RIGHT NOW!”

Next, let’s look at gentleness. Our culture rewards aggressiveness and mocks anyone who is quiet, reserved, and polite. “The squeaky wheel gets the grease!” we hear constantly, as we are encouraged to “stand up for our rights” and “demand satisfaction.” Which usually means: throw a temper tantrum and badger others until you get what you want. Not very attractive, and not a likely source of peace and happiness.

The final fruit is self-control. Oh boy, where do we even begin? Our modern culture—with a big boost from the advertising industry and the sexual revolution of the 1960s—had conditioned contemporary citizens to give in to every urge that comes our way. Do you have an urge to buy something? Cha-ching! Do you have an urge to eat something? Chow down! Do you have an urge to have sex with someone? Go for it! Our national anthem during the past 50 years has been: “If it feels good, do it!”

So, is the average American happy and joyful and serene as a result of ignoring the nine fruits of the spirit? Not even close. Instead of fruits of the spirit, our culture is harvesting bitter fruits. It’s time for us to be counter-cultural. It’s time to reject the self-centered attitudes of our modern society and instead embrace the eternal truths of God. St. Paul knew what he was talking about. The nine fruits of the spirit are the key to a happy and fulfilled life. Let’s give them a try.

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