I’m a fan of most holiday snacks, but, unlike my father, I’ve never been much of a fruitcake fan. I like fruit, and I like cake, but I don’t really like fruitcake. Perhaps my problem is I prefer fresh fruit, and Merriam-Webster defines a fruitcake as “a rich cake containing nuts, dried or candied fruits, and spices.”
This issue of Light + Life focuses on the “fruit of the Spirit … love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22–23). Although verse 23 continues with “against such things there is no law,” these fruits seem to be in short supply with some people who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ. Maybe these fruits haven’t disappeared completely, but they’re dried up and are past their freshness date. Maybe the fruits can be labeled “candied,” but they’re still not appealing to others.
While on vacation a couple of years ago, my family ate at a mom-and-pop restaurant that printed Bible verses on its menu and sold Christian books in its adjacent gift shop. We returned to the restaurant when we recently visited the area. We entered and found people waiting to be seated, but a waitress began escorting us to a table before realizing she had confused us with other customers who had arrived earlier. The restaurant’s manager became upset and then referred to her employees (not just the one who made the mistake) with a slur for people of Polish descent. Despite the trappings of a Christian-owned business, the fruit of the Spirit did not seem to be on display.
I’m writing this article a few days before the Nov. 6 election, and I’ve been bombarded with some of the nastiest political commercials I’ve seen in my four decades on this planet. I reside in Indiana where most of the candidates profess Christian faith, but I don’t see the fruit of the Spirit in the campaign ads. I’m not alone. A few hours ago, I received a press release about an American Bible Society survey, which “found that an overwhelming 90 percent of Americans believe elected officials should display peace, kindness, gentleness and self-control. These qualities, known as the ‘fruit of the spirit,’ are described in the Bible as necessary to living an exemplary life — something most Americans believe politicians should be striving to emulate, but only 26 percent believe they are actually doing” (fmchr.ch/abspol).
It’s not just the politicians who aren’t demonstrating the fruit of the Spirit in their public discourse. Political arguments can easily turn into personal insults whether at the dinner table or on Facebook. I confess that, late one night a few months ago, I typed a response to a relative’s political Facebook post. I quickly reconsidered my action and deleted my remarks because I believed they were not beneficial. I hoped that my relative was asleep and never read my remarks.
Please do not interpret this article as saying Christians should avoid politics (or running restaurants). B.T. Roberts — the principal founder of the Free Methodist Church and this magazine’s former editor — was politically active and outspoken against slavery and for farmers’ rights. I would love to see godly women and men run for political office in both major U.S. political parties, and I would love to see them respectfully campaign by explaining the values behind their views. My point is that “whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).
I’m not meaning to condemn other people here, because I can think of many times in my life where I’ve failed to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit. I’m convicted as I read these words of the One whose birth we celebrate this month: “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them” (Matthew 7:18–20).
How can we ensure we’re living out the fruit of the Spirit? Keep reading for advice from some fruitful experts and read about people who are bearing fruit and embracing people from all backgrounds and sharing their faith with them or helping them grow as disciples of the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). May our commitment to Christ and our demonstration of the Spirit’s fruit bring “glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:14).
Jeff Finley is the executive editor of Light + Life, which he joined in 2011 after working as a reporter and editor for Sun-Times Media.
- Feature: Growing the Fruit of the Spirit
- Bishops: Bearing the Fruit of the Spirit
- Action: Trust and Diversity at Christ Community
- Discipleship: Try Jesus-Sourced Produce This Christmas
- Pop Theology: The Spirit, Freedom and Adoption
- News: Answering the Call to Embrace All
- News: Greenville Offers Next Justice Ministry Pilgrimage Course
- World: African Free Methodists Welcomed Home
- World: WMI to Dissolve at Year’s End