Saturday, May 28, 2022

Fruits as consequence. . .

As we make our way to Pentecost it occurs to me that too much ink and time has been spent on the gifts  of the Spirit and too little on the fruits of the Spirit.  Frankly, coming into the ministry in the midst of the charismatic movement's ascendancy in nearly every denomination, I am tired of talking about speaking in tongues.  If you have not had to deal with this, you owe the Lord a Te Deum.  At one point in time it was about the only thing talked about.  Spiritual gift surveys were given out like time and talent surveys and I can recall recruiting Sunday school or VBS teachers only to be told oh, that is not my gift; my gift is blah...  I am ever so thankful we are not so preoccupied with such things now.  But at the same time I truly regret that we are not more occupied with the fruits of the Spirit.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  Gal. 5:22-23

Fewer words than the ink St. Paul and the rest of us have spend on spiritual gifts but probably more important ones.  Much of the time St. Paul spent on spiritual gifts was to correct, rebuke, and reprove the abuses.  I doubt that he had to spend any time doing that for the fruits of the Spirit.   The fruits of the Spirit are not so much the willed decisions  or choices on our part as they are the consequences of those willed decisions or choices.  The fruits of the Spirit are not fruits that we must plant but the planting of the Spirit; we do not nurture them in the sense of practicing them or desiring them.  Rather, they are the natural fruits that come from and flow out of our time spent in the Word of God and through the means of grace.  Being in the Spirit through the means of grace is the means to bearing in our lives the fruits of the Spirit.

We do not will the love of God into our hearts or make us be joyful anymore than we set our hearts with peace.  We do not will patience into our impatient hearts or become kind by choice.  Goodness is not the fruit of choices we make.  Faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are not the result of improved effort.  Rather, these come from God and it is by being with God in His Word and Sacraments that the Spirit grows these into our hearts, minds, and lives.  We do not learn them from earthly teachers or therapists (which is what too many presume the role of pastor) or life coaches.  Pastors aid this through their preaching and teaching of God's Word and by their administration of the Sacraments but it is the work of the Spirit to bring forth the fruits of the Spirit.

Finally, something ought to be said for prayer.  A rich and full prayer life is not only salutary for the commending of the desires of our heart to the Lord but to prepare us to receive from Him what He has promised.  The fruits of the Spirit are the consequences of more time spent in prayer and do not find their way in us through short cuts or abbreviated times of devotion.  The work of God in us are not instantaneous but deliberate.  In truth we see them best by looking back rather than by looking in the mirror now or by trying to clear up the fog of the future for our plans.

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