One day when our daughter was preschool age, she and I were reading a child’s storybook about a little boy who was enjoying his breakfast cereal with slices of apple and raisins in it. Upon observing the fruit in her brother’s bowl the sister commented on having learned about the “Fruit of the Spirit” while at church.
The little boy thought that he might want to try that fruit in his cereal sometime, but his sister laughed gently and then began to carefully explain that the “Fruit of the Spirit” is not something that one eats.
At this point, my daughter did a double-take and looked at me with a puzzled expression on her face. “You don’t eat the fruit?” she asked.
“Not that kind of fruit,” I answered, but before I could elaborate, she flipped a page of the book to an illustration of a caterpillar painstakingly placing sneakers, one by one, on each of its many feet, the word “Patience” sitting beside it in green letters. Then she turned another page to a picture of a bird helping a small insect with the word “Kindness” floating nearby. She continued on through several more pages discovering that none of them featured anything even remotely edible.
“Where is the fruit?” she asked turning to me again.
I smiled at her and opened the pages again. “Right here,” I answered.
“I don’t see it,” she replied.
“That’s because God’s ‘special fruit’ isn’t something that you can eat or hold. It’s something you do.” She looked at me, still puzzled and perplexed, but patiently waiting for me to go on. “The Bible says that there is special fruit for God’s people called the ‘Fruit of the Spirit’.”
“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23a ESV).
She seemed to be listening so I went on. “So God’s fruit isn’t something we eat but something we do. They are invisible fruits that come out of us because Jesus lives in our hearts.”
At this, my daughter smiled a big smile. “You mean if I be nice?”
I smiled back and nodded, instead of correcting her English. “Yes, being nice to others is fruit. So is sharing, waiting your turn, and obeying Mommy and Daddy.”
“And not doing bad things?” she added inquisitively. I nodded again.
She took the book back into her hands, studied the pictures of the brother and sister at their breakfast table, and then gazed at the illustrations that followed.
“Invisible fruits,” she giggled. She hopped out of my lap and then, with a red bandana, began to dance around the room singing about God’s “special fruit”, being nice, and sharing because Jesus lives in her heart. She ended her song and dance about fruit with a lyrical, “You can’t see them but they’re there. You can’t see them, because they’re invisible!” As a finale, she folded herself to the floor like a closing flower, paused dramatically and then ran off into the other room.
I’m thinking that I’ll be seeing some of that “invisible fruit” coming from her life as God continues to work His wonderful work inside her heart.
Such “invisible fruit” is one of the major graces afforded a true child of God. It is the evidence of a heart that has been given new life through faith in Jesus Christ. It is what nurtures and builds the relationship of the child of God with his or her brothers and sisters in Christ as God works out Christian character through him or her.
Of course, there is a danger for such “invisible fruit” to be just a little too invisible. The Scripture in Galatians 5:22-23 concludes with the important thought that against such fruits “there is no law”. But it begins the whole thought in verse 16 with the spiritual principle that if we “live by the Spirit, we will not gratify the (harmful and selfish) desires of the flesh.”
As Christians, we often find ourselves struggling with impulses and temptations that too often overcome the Godly character that our Savior has a right to expect from us.
But instead of demanding such perfection, we are given the assurance that our Christian character is not dependent on our striving for moral uprightness or even our adherence to strict religious legalities. While Christian character IS the living out of those virtues that truly define us as God’s children, they are the “fruits” or “by-products” of lives that are surrendered to Jesus’ lordship. We live each day, giving Him our lives, moment-by-moment, word by word, deed by deed. We offer Him the sacrifice of our actions, our speech, and our attitudes. He then works in our hearts as we get to know Him better through personal prayer, privately meditating on His Word, corporate worship and service with other Believers. When we mess up, we “fess up” and start over again, trusting Him to give us the wisdom, strength, and love to be truly fruitful.
God’s Word goes on to say in that passage, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful (or fleshly) nature with its (selfish) passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (from Galatians 5:24-25).
It is a sad thing when the “Fruit of the Spirit” is simply too invisible to be found in your life. The presence of such fruit would both give you wings to truly enjoy your status as a “child of God” and inspire those around you with the power of the One Who saved you.
Do a little self-inspection right now. Is there fruit? Is your character becoming more like Jesus’ character? Instead of anger, jealousy, immorality, bitterness, impatience, dissension, envy, and pride, is there more love? Is there more peace? How about patience and kindness? Or even goodness and faithfulness? Can folks see gentleness? Is your self-control on the rise?
If not, then it sounds like there is a disconnect between your heart and God’s. Fruit is NOT the same thing as success (no matter what anyone tells you).
But if these things ARE growing in your life, then they are not invisible to God, even if others do not see them or approve of you if they do detect them. If these fruits ARE growing in your life, then maybe you ought to grab your own red bandana and dance for joy before God and sing a song of praise to Him! It’s all right if you do! I promise that I won’t tell anyone.
(Thom Mollohan and his family have ministered in southern Ohio the past 21 years. He is the author of The Fairy Tale Parables, Crimson Harvest, and A Heart at Home with God. He blogs at “unfurledsails.wordpress.com”. Pastor Thom leads Pathway Community Church and may be reached for comments or questions by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.)