The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)
I’m having a horticultural “best of times/worst of times” moment in reference to an event unfolding in my hindmost landscaping bed (i.e. that patch of dirt out behind the carport). I’m watching one of my banana plants actually sprout bananas – one of the coolest and rarest things ever (at least in my particular plant hardiness zone). Out of the blue recently, a large, deep-red banana heart appeared at the top of my tallest plant. As each layer of the banana heart peels back like a petal, it reveals tier upon tier of tiny, finger-sized bananas.
Once the final petal has opened and the baby bananas have had time to ripen, I’ll have my own little bunch of Chiquitas. And they’re sweet – much more so than their store-bought banana brethren and sistren.
Makes me feel kind of like a parent (of really tall, green, and quiet children – who sprout bananas).
That’s the good news. The bad news is that a banana plant only has one bunch of bananas in it; after that, it dies. So no sooner are the tiny potassium- and vitamin C-laced babies ready to adorn a bowl of corn flakes than the plant I’ve fed and watered and nurtured from a pup suddenly takes an unceremonious, leaning-tower-of-Pisa-like nose-dive into the mulch.
Not a happy sight. But that’s the way God made bananas – bear fruit and then exit, stage left.
With just a cursory read of the Bible, you’ll discover that “bearing fruit” is also the perfect analogy for being a productive Christian. Many of the Biblical writers have a lot to say about bearing fruit, as did Jesus. (Of course, He’s generally not talking about bananas – at least I don’t think so. I can’t imagine one of the apostles slipping on a banana peel. That would give a whole new meaning to the phrase “the fall of man.”)
Paul had some pretty insightful things to say about bearing fruit, as well. In chapter 5 of his letter to the church at Galatia (in what today would be Turkey), he found himself in the unpleasant position of having to give the Galatians an “F” in “conduct” on their spiritual report card. He didn’t pull any punches when contrasting their fruits of the “flesh” – referring to their proclivity to sin – to fruits of the “spirit.”
Although Paul reminds the Galatians that they were called to be free, he warns them to not let that freedom take then down the wrong side street.
The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19-21, NIV
That’s an embarrassingly l-o-o-o-ng list of possible sinful pursuits. He pretty much takes those Galatians to the woodshed – if you’re going to act like this, he says, you can jolly well kiss any chance of eternity with God in heaven “αντίο”.
But the God of all creation (including bananas) is also the God of new creations. In verses 22 and 23, Paul goes on to offer an encouraging “but” to those who belong to Christ Jesus.
“But,” he says…
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23, NIV
How d’you like them bananas? (or, you know, the fruit of your choice) Now that’s a list I can get into.
Sadly, though, it’s kind of hard to find many of the fruits on that list percolating through the world today. Just think about your latest drive home from work – did you see any joy or kindness or self-control out on the interstate? Me neither.
Earlier in his letter to the Galatians, Paul says:
The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:14, NIV
In other words, don’t tailgate or speed up just to cut your neighbor off and keep him from merging into your lane.
- Love that left-lane hogging driver with his turn signal on for the last 20 miles riding his brake and flicking cigarette ashes out the window while texting.
- Love that person in front of you at the grocery checkout who waits until the cashier has rung up all her groceries and given her the total before she starts hunting for her credit card which is somewhere in her wallet which is somewhere in her voluminous purse – while texting.
- Love that know-it-all in your meeting who, because he or she can’t get enough of hearing him- or herself talk, forces a follow-up meeting to be scheduled, since they ate up so much time nattering on (while texting). And if there’s two of them competing for air time? Ay-yi-yi… Pray for peace. And strength. And grace. And a stomach bug the day of that follow-up meeting…
So just like “fruits of the flesh” vs. “fruits of the spirit,” this whole “fruits of the banana” vs. “fruits of the Christian” essay is an exercise in contrasts. My banana plant only gets one shot at it. Once it’s borne its fruit, that’s it – it passes on, it’s no more, it ceases to be, it’s a stiff, bereft of life, an ex-banana.
For the Christian though, Jesus used a beautiful fruit-bearing analogy when He said:
“I am the vine, you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit.” John 15:5, NIV
Not once, like my soon-to-be-finished banana, but over and over – as long as we continue to share His Gospel. In fact, if the fruit we bear leads others to a saving knowledge of God’s grace and results in eternal life for someone else, we can conceivably “bear fruit” forever.
I find that very a-peeling…