‘If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.’
I’ve known for a long time what the fruit (singular) of the Spirit is, as contained in today’s passage. It’s another of those elements of Scripture that gets drummed in to you as you grow up in Church and are encouraged towards maturity in faith. It can be used as a measure of ‘how you’re doing’,or something used to hold you accountable. These can be great, loving, generous, kind and so on, or can be used as instruments of judgement, either by others against us, or for us against ourselves. If we’re not showing enough patience, kindness, gentleness and so on, we can make ourselves think that we don’t have enough of the Spirit, that God is disappointed with us, or even that the Spirit has given up on us and left. We can be convinced that this is entirely justified. It is highly possible to enter in to a cycle of transactional faith and failure where we welocme God in to our lives, then fail and fall, let him down, lose him and then the whole thing starts again. Some of our pastoral care structures can actually exacerbate this. I’m convinced that, actually, some of us prefer this highly emotive way of doing faith. It gives us something to focus on (our failings) and makes it more about us than it is about God.
But, the fruit of the Spirit is the Spirit’s fruit. It is the Spirit’s to give, to nurture and to see to fruition. We live in partnership with God because he invites us in to that place, but the Spirit can give its fruit to whosoever it wishes, at whatever time it wishes. All of us, if we’re honest and self-aware, should have no trouble coming up with reasons why God should not bless us, but that’s the point of the gospel. According to our standards, no-one should be loved by God, but by his, everyone is. So don’t let the disappointments of life distract you. God is continuing to plan seeds in your life that will grow in to full bloom.