Galatians 5:22-23 NIV
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
On my Facebook feed recently, I saw a church sign that proclaimed, “God wants religious fruits, not religious nuts.” This is so true. The fruits of the Spirit are things such as love, peace, and gentleness. But there are many religious nuts who lead lives of selfishness at best, and lives of dark, deadly hatred at worst.
Fruits of the Spirit
There are people of faith, following many different religious paths, who live and grow in the fruits of the spirit. They find seeking God and the heavenly kingdom. They practice forbearance by giving up the rat race of earthly power and possessions. They follow a simple life of love for others and love for God’s beautiful creation.
These people of faith practice kindness, goodness, and gentleness toward others. They show special concern for the poor, bruised, and broken. They fight oppression in the world and in their neighborhood. By following Jesus’ path of holy justice, they gain the fruits of the spirit. The fruits ripen and grow during the seasons of a lifelong journey with the Holy Spirit.
Take another look at the Apostle Paul’s writing on the fruits of the Spirit, this time translated in the Message Bible:
Galatians 5:22-23 MSG
But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely. Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way. Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good—crucified.
A simple life of holiness. A conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. A life pursuing the fruits of the spirit.
Fruitcake of the Spirit
I have been publicly called a “fruitcake” for my writings on this website. I am proud of that. I want to pursue the fruits of the Spirit until they are so full and alive in my life that they make a cake.
The ingredients in my cake are a heaping cup of love, another cup of peace through justice for the oppressed, sprinkles of gentleness and kindness, and fruits of every kind. Let it bake through the spiritual journey of a life. But I won’t add any nuts. There are already too many religious nuts in the world.
So Many Religious Nuts
There are people who call themselves faithful, but who do not follow the fruits of the spirit. These people are religious nuts who use their faith as an excuse to bring harm to the world.
So many religious nuts want war and destruction. So many religious nuts crow out, “my way is the only way.” They battle against each other in words and weapons. Denomination against denomination. Religion against religion.
So many religious nuts battle against the poor. They call for cutting off medical and food support, harsh austerity they term “responsibility.” They love to preach, “God helps those who help themselves,” a saying found nowhere in the Bible.
When people think of religions nuts, often the first image to come to mind is a jihadist Muslim, like the shooting in a Sydney cafe, or the violence against Charlie Hebdo. Or they think of religious wars, the Catholic crusades of old, or the Muslims and Christians still killing each other in Africa and the Middle East. Perhaps they picture a Christian bombing an abortion clinic. These acts of terror are the most tragic fruits of a “my way is the only way” attitude.
These killings and violence are so horrible. So are less deadly acts of violence, like Christians who hold up signs saying “God hates gays.” The Holy Spirit is the mother of love, compassion, and understanding, the religious fruits of a wise spiritual path. God is so far from human hatred.
But these international news-making acts of religious violence are not the only forms of religious nuttery. There are Christians who build their kingdoms on earth at the expense of the poor. They are religious nuts. Jesus said, “The Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:20) Yet some Christians say,”Don’t build those low-income apartments in my neighborhood, it will lower my property values.” They are religious nuts.
Jesus freely healed people and fed the crowd of 5000 people, even when he was exhausted from teaching all day (Matthew 14:13-21). Conservative political religious people say, “Cut back food stamps. He who shall not work shall not eat!” They are religious nuts.
I even knew someone who was proud to proclaim that she was an “extremist for Jesus.” When I told her that her words could be hurtful to people who have experienced the terror of religious extremism, she defriended me on Facebook. Where is the love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control? God weeps over all this destruction in his name.
God Wants Religious Fruits, Not Religious Nuts
As people of faith, we should strive for fruits of peace and gentleness. Christians should join Jesus in following the way of the good Samaritan. We should tell our Muslim neighbors, “I’ll ride with you.” The fruits bloom and mature in holding hands with our neighbors of other religions. We must fight for justice for the poor and oppressed, the wrongfully incarcerated and the hungry. The fight for social justice creates peace and kindness.
Shabbat Shalom this beautiful Friday. Peace on your journey. Make a decision today to follow the journey of the fruits of the Spirit.