21 October 2008

The fruit of our lives

Hmm... Fruit... Can you smell it? Juicy and ripe, melt in the mouth strawberries, apricots, oranges, rasberries, melons, pears, bananas, blueberries. Fresh, ripe, fruitCan anything be more delicious and fragrant than perfectly ripened fruit? Sun-drenched, hand picked, unblemished, and perfect. What a contrast with fruit that has gone mouldy!

But there's another kind of fruit, the fruit produced in our lives. Is that also fragrant, perfect, and unblemished?

One way to identify a tree or bush is to take a good look at the fruit it produces. It turns out that this is a very reliable way to identify a tree. Can you tell the difference between a coconut palm and a date palm? If you're an expert or a local you can, but suppose you live in Wales or Ontario? But what if one palm has coconuts on it and the other carries a huge bunch of dates? You don't need to be an expert now, it's a no-brainer!

It's the same with people, look at the fruit they produce in their lives and you will be able to judge right away what kind of person they are.

The fruit of the Spirit - The Bible has something most important to say about this. Paul writes to the Galatian church (Galatians 5:16-26) that 'the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control'. He contrasts this good fruit with the mouldy fruit of the sinful nature, and he writes that if we live by the Spirit we will produce the fruit of the Spirit. The Spirit here is the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth and Power and Righteousness and of a Sound Mind. And what does it mean to live by the Spirit of Christ? Simply, it means that I no longer live but Christ lives in me. It's the only way!

I used to work as a scientist studying the development of apple and plum fruit. Development begins with something small and almost unrecognisable as a fruit, initially it's just an insignificant part of a flower. But the young fruit grows in size and develops in character until it becomes ripe and mature and fully recognisable by its shape, texture, colour, fragrance, and flavour.

As these fruit of the Spirit develop in a person they make themselves known, each of them in maturity has it's own distinctive shape, texture, colour, fragrance, and flavour. Shape describes the boundaries of a thing, its limits if you will. Texture tells us how a thing feels to the touch. Colour is something that must be seen, a purely visual thing. For fragrance we must inhale and savour the aroma carried in with our breath. And flavour can only be sensed by taking the thing in and absorbing it so that it becomes a part of us. To make this clearer we'll take love as an example.

Concerning love - What is the shape of love, what are its boundaries? It has none! Love is without limit, it will stretch any distance, in any direction. Love is utterly determined to reach the one that is loved - no matter how distant.

But love also has a texture, a 'feel' to it. When you touch love you feel its warmth like a glove. Love is not hard or rigid, it responds to pressure by giving way yet remaining in contact. We could say it has a spongy, foamy, stretchy texture. If you draw away from love, love will always try to maintain contact. There's a flexibility here, a constancy.

What of the colour of love? It has to be a warm colour so we can set aside blues and greens. Love is always pure so we could imagine an admixture of white. There is no darkness in love so consider a delicate pink, light tangerine, or a pale mauve.

Fragrance is interesting because breathing is involved and breath always signifies the spiritual. Love has an aromatic fragrance that we recognise immediately, it can't easily be confused with anything else, nor can it be convincingly counterfeited. It's never pungent or harsh, always pleasant and attractive. The aroma of hyacinths or bluebells fits quite well, or the fragrance of balsam downwind of a stand of poplars in the spring.

And the flavour of love is like honey. Anyone who has opened themselves to receive love will know this flavour, it is unforgettable. If you do not open your mouth you don't taste the honey. Some people are like that, they will not (or cannot) open, they don't receive, the honey may coat their face and drip from their chin but they have no idea how sweet it is. The Song of Solomon speaks of a lover's lips being 'sweet like the honeycomb' (Songs 4:11). Why do you suppose the Bible describes Israel as a 'land running with milk and honey'? It's because the love of Yahweh is poured out on the dwelling place he has chosen for his people, just as his love is poured out on all who belong to his Son. Those who believe have opened their mouths, ingested that love, and tasted the sweetness for themselves. Those who reject Christ have closed their mouths and cannot taste.

Taste it for yourself - The world needs to know that where the Father's love is concerned there is no third state. A person is open and has tasted, or is closed and has no idea of love's flavour. Nobody can put this choice off as if it's something to consider for the future. For all of us the die is already cast, if you want to change your mind and taste - do it now while there is still time. A time is coming when everyone must accept the choice they have already made.

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