I have posted several meditations on what St. Paul calls the “fruit of the spirit” (Galatians 5:22). The last post focused on “Kindness.” In this post, I would like to reflect more generally on what this “fruit” might mean for you personally.
The “fruit of the spirit” refers to the virtues that genuine Christians should manifest in their daily lives in word and deed. How should you as a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ, live your life in relation to others? How should you behave? The answer St. Paul gives is that in everything we do and say, we should manifest the “fruit of the spirit” in our lives.
The way we live and work with other people witnesses directly to our own spiritual formation and maturity. If we live in peace with one another, demonstrating our kindness, love, and generosity with others, we demonstrate that Christ indeed lives in us. On the other hand, if we are angry most of the time, our lives do not witness to the love of Christ, something that all those who follow Jesus are called to embody and show to the world. Jesus told his disciples very clearly that they were to love one another just as he had loved them.
In the New Revised Standard of the Bible, the version used most often in the Episcopal Church today, St. Paul’s words are translated in this way: “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness” (Gal 5: 22).
Each of these words contain a vast treasure of meaning for us. After all, what does it really mean to love another person or to be a person of peace? How are we to be kind and gentle toward others?
The Message is a paraphrased translation of the Bible. Eugene Peterson, its author, does not call his translation the Bible, as he does not want his version to be confused with more literal translations. His version seeks to express what the passage means for us today in our current context using simple, but contemporary language. As a result, it functions best as a companion to more literal translations of the Bible. I find that after I read a passage in the NRSV, I often want to see what Peterson makes of it in The Message.
The paraphrase of Galatians 5:22-23 in the Message is as follows:
But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.
The way in which Peterson unfolds what St. Paul means by the fruit of the spirit is brilliant: “[God] brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard….”
The purpose of a fruit tree is to produce fruit. Similarly, Jesus calls those who follow him to bear spiritual fruit by living a life that is genuinely Christ-like, a life that is peaceful, loving, gracious, forgiving, kind and generous towards one another.
What kind of fruit are you bearing in your life?