I love fruit salad. A fresh combination of berries, bananas, pineapple, and oranges is a great accompaniment to breakfast, lunch, or dinner. But you won’t find any melon in my fruit salads. No cantaloupe, honeydew, or watermelon. I don’t like melon—not the taste nor texture. So I guess I have to admit that I am picky about my fruit salad. In fact, if someone else has made a fruit salad that includes melon, I will try to subtly dish up a portion that only includes my favorites. It is tempting to take a selective approach to the fruit of the Spirit, too. Love, joy, peace—sure—I want those in my life. Gentleness and self-control—no thanks, I’ll eat around those.
What did Paul intend when he boldly stated in his letter to the Galatians that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control?
Rather than a menu of character qualities from which Christians can choose, he was giving a picture of the way a life can be changed by knowing Jesus and being filled with the Holy Spirit. In Galatians 5, Paul contrasts the person who walks by the Spirit, who has chosen to follow God and be led by the Spirit, as qualitatively different from one who continues to act out sinful desires.
So as we grow in our spiritual lives, let’s embrace all of what the Holy Spirit offers. Growing in the fruit of the Spirit isn’t something we do by trying harder or digging deeper into a “bowl” of character qualities. The fruit of the Spirit grows as we stop trying to conjure up gentleness and respond to the whispers of the Spirit in our lives, the Spirit who wants to infuse our whole being with gentleness—and all the other marks of His character. This kind of life, a life that exhibits character qualities that reflect Jesus, is attractive to those around us. A life full of the fruit of the Spirit points people toward God.