Fruits

Fruits of the Spirit – The Reformed Journal Blog

One of my friends, while growing up, was the member of a small Pentecostal church in our town. It had, perhaps 25 members, most of them related, and it struggled to keep its doors open. We rarely attended the church services with her, but we lived all year for the church’s summer Bible camp, where kids from all over Iowa from similar church backgrounds met. It was a week of water skiing, mud volleyball, cute boys—and learning Scripture.

Lots and lots of Scripture.

At our twice-daily chapel gatherings, we learned chapters and chapters and chapters of the Bible. The leaders knew that rote memorization is tough. But they also knew that when you set words to music, even small children can memorize copious amounts of information (think the ABC’s, or the books of the Bible).

For whatever reason, the Scripture-set-to-music that I remember most, is Galatians 5, even if the words from the King James Bible sounded a bit awkward to a 12-year-old in the 1970s who read mostly The Good News Bible.

Stand fast in the liberty/
Wherewith Christ has set us free/
And be ye not entangled/
In the yoke of bondage.

For you have been called unto liberty/
But use not that liberty/
As an occasion of the flesh/
But love one another.

The fruits of the Spirit are love, joy peace/
Longsuffering, gentleness/
Meekness, kindness, goodness, faith/
Against such there is no law.

Stand fast in the liberty/
Wherewith Christ has set us free/
And be ye not entangled/
In the yoke of bondage.

I can still rattle off the fruits of the Spirit, but I can’t help thinking that the last phrase “Against such there is no law…” sounds an awful lot like a diet program.

If you’ve ever been part of a weight loss program that counts points, you know the drill: “Here are all the good things you want to eat and can’t, BUT…carrots! Celery! Broccoli! Cabbage! You can have as many of these as you like! They’re zero points! Against such there is no law!”

Are the fruits of the Spirit the grudging second-place prize? The Rice-a-Roni in a celestial game show?

We act like that sometimes. I act like that. Paul even acknowledges it: “…the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit.” It seems absurd when you say it out loud: I’d rather be pulled back into my old nature than do what’s good for me. The fact is, I crave cheesecake over broccoli.

So what to do?

The key, perhaps, is in verse 18: “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” Even when I’m dieting full force and see the good results in front of me — better health, well-fitting clothing, an energizing exercise routine — I still desire the CheezIts. Even when I’m walking in the Spirit—even being led by the Spirit, I still desire having the last word and greed and competition and backbiting. Doesn’t it sound horrible that way? I desire things that lead to an aching spirit, divisions between me and those I love most, soul-shriveling acts of impulse and shame, just as a binge of Oreo Cookies leaves me sickened and ashamed.

Maybe being led by the Spirit doesn’t prevent us from falling off the bandwagon once in a while. Maybe it’s not all or nothing.

I strive to let the Spirit lead me and to cultivate those fruits that are promised, and while I’m in that path, I feel good! I feel healthy and strong! I sense the Spirit’s presence around me! And yet, still those ugly, niggling little remnants of the “old me” show up and sometimes take over.

And just as when you blow a diet and think, “I give up!” and you’re tempted to just eat everything around you, sometimes my backsliding on the Spirit elicits the same response—I give up! I’m not worthy! Then gently the Spirit picks me up, sets me back on the path and says, “Hey, try again. Don’t give up on the fruit.”

Scale photo by i yunmai on Unsplash


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