It has been a while – a very long while. So, as a bit of a “reset,” here is what this page is about – whether you prefer “Vegetables” or “Forgotten Fruit” of the Spirit.
Why now? In part, because as new empty nesters I have a bit more time now. Also, because several email exchanges with a new friend in the UK has triggered a new interest and desire to jump back in.
The Christian culture loves the fruit of the Spirit as listed by Paul in Galatians 5:22, but have we taken a list provided to a group of early church believers and elevated it higher than intended?
For example, did Paul mean to imply that there are 9 – and only 9 – fruit of the Spirit? Since the next 3 words after the list are “Against *such* things” (emphasis added), I don’t believe he believe that it was an exhaustive list. (This is not unlike a longer list Paul shares earlier – the acts of the sinful nature – which are listed, followed by the qualifier, “and the like.”)
Instead, when considered a “representative” list, rather than exhaustive, it allows for Paul to be writing to the specific needs of the Galatian church, without these 9 traits being the complete list of the Holy Spirit working in our lives.
The Vegetables are more than just listing synonyms to Paul’s listed 9. They are differentiated because they may not be our favorite to develop, demonstrate, or receive.
- The Search: Fruit are easier to spot and identify than vegetables. You see fruit as soon as you see the trees. If you’re not familiar with vegetables, you may not even know which are edible. Spiritually, the fruit have a spotlight on them, being introduced by “The fruit of the Spirit is…” The Vegetables are qualities that you’ll find scattered throughout the Bible, present but without fanfare.
- The Harvest: Dressed in your finest clothes you can still grab an apple off the tree and be on your way. It’s less likely you would grab a fork and dig up potatoes without changing first. A life defined purely by the fruit may seem clean and virtuous, but when you look at Christian lives with lasting impact, you’ll find the veg too… and a few messes from getting in the dirt for Christ.
- The Taste: Before children even have teeth, they have a sweet tooth. Babies started on fruit-based baby food are often difficult to transition to broccoli. Even as adults we follow this trend. In a Christian culture where getting along is the top priority, the fruit may appear to provide those goals but will only get you so far without the impact of the vegetables.
- The Response: This category is the result of the other three. The traits that are easy to find, embrace and make you feel good are going to gather a larger following than those requiring more work, difficulty and effort.
Here are some examples: Risk, Boldness, Greatness. Uh oh… those don’t sound very “Christian,” do they? But are they?
The early church didn’t play it safe, they regularly prayed for boldness, and Jesus himself said those who believe in him will do “even greater things.”
Some of you are still cringing – inside or physically. Isn’t Risk just recklessness? Boldness an open door to arrogance, and Greatness a path to unrestrained ego? Are we viewing these words in the biblical sense, or with our own baggage piled upon them.
In the flesh, perhaps, but NOT if they are “of the Spirit.” Similarly, Paul’s listed fruit can fall into a place they are no longer Spirit-led. Abused love can become enablement, gentleness can sometimes be excused cowardice, and the Bible is not kind towards the cowardly.
The key point to remember is that the Holy Spirit-led life will maintain a proper balance between the Fruit and Vegetables, but ignoring either side will result in us going too far the other side, and into sin.
Still struggling? In the coming weeks and months, we will unpack these ideas further. This idea has been growing (sorry) since the spring of 2006, and I’m excited to see where the time off will take it moving forward.
Share your thoughts below, and be part of the conversation. I can’t commit to daily responses, but give me some grace and patience and let’s see where it leads us!