The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
Jesus said, “You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? So, every sound tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears evil fruit. A sound tree cannot bear evil fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits.
Today we conclude our unit on the Fruit of the Spirit. What makes a fruit tree grow? Obviously, there needs to be a seed planted. There needs to be fertile soil, water, sunlight, and nourishment. These are the things we need if we are going to successfully grow a fruit tree.
If we are going to be successful in cultivating the Fruit of the Spirit in us, we can use the same principles. First, there needs to be a seed planted. In order for the seed to be planted, we have to receive the seed from somewhere. This is where going to church, going to Sunday School, reading the Bible, praying, taking a catechism class and overall encouragement from others, including your priest, come in. These are the mechanisms by which we have the seed of faith sown in us. (This is also why we speak of Christ with other people because each of us plays an integral part in throwing the seed of faith to other people.)
The fertile soil is something we can each control. When you want to plant a garden, you have to designate where your garden will be, and then work to free up the garden from weeds and rocks. First, you remove the big ones, then the small ones, and then even the smallest ones. In the garden of our souls, where we grow the Fruit of the Spirit, we have to make the soil fertile by removing the rocks and weeds – the sins and things that keep us from growing mature spiritual fruit. First, we remove the big sins and temptations and then work towards removing the smaller ones. This process is helped by disciplines like fasting and confession that facilitate repentance and weeding out of bad habits.
Plants need water to grow. No tree is going to grow without water. For the Christian, the water is “grace”, first poured on us at the time of our baptisms and continually poured on us through Holy Communion, Confession, prayer, and charity.
The sun is essential to the growth of plants. And the SON is essential to the growth of Christian souls. We need to spend time each day with the Son of God, with Jesus Christ – in prayer, in reflection, in Scripture reading. We need to talk to Him, listen to Him, sit with Him, be with Him and talk about Him with others.
There are two other ingredients to successful fruit trees. The first is fertilizer, extra nutrients that make the soil rich and allow the tree to grow even stronger. The fertilizer of the Christian life is fellowship with other Christians, encouragement, and belonging to a Church community. The community can’t spend time with the SON FOR YOU. However, the community can spend time with the Son WITH YOU. The community can encourage you to grow spiritually.
The second thing that trees need is pruning. Cutting back certain parts helps the others parts come back healthier and stronger. We all need periodic pruning and tweaking of our spiritual lives. This can come through confession, repentance, a renewed start at prayer or scripture reading, changing certain habits, and recommitting ourselves to our Christian walk, something we can do at any time. The person who never makes changes to their Christian life is like the tree that never gets pruned. It may do okay, but it won’t do as well as it could.
As you can see from our study, all the Fruit are related. You can work on any of them at any time. And when you work on one, all of the others will improve. On the other side, if you are falling down on one, the others are going to fall down as well. So, one healthy exercise is to rank yourself on a scale of 1 to 10 on the Fruit of the Spirit. If you see one or two on which you score particularly low, put some extra emphasis on that one or two, so that the other seven or eight are not pulled down with them.
The best-looking tree is the one that produces the greatest amount of healthy fruit. The best soul is the one that produces the most Spiritual Fruit. Notice I used the word “produce,” because the fruit of a tree is there for others to enjoy. The tree doesn’t enjoy its own fruit. It produces fruit that others enjoy and then produces even more fruit so that even more people can enjoy it. The soul that is filled with the Fruit of the Spirit does not only “consume” love, joy, peace, patience, etc. but it produces these things and inspires their growth in other people.
It’s up to each of us to decide what kind of Spiritual Fruit we wish to cultivate. No one can do it for us. Others can encourage us. But the choice is ours. Each Fruit of the Spirit is a choice. Each comes with a reward in this life. And each prepares us for the reward of eternal life.
Lord, thank You for the Fruit of the Spirit which You created – thank You for Your example of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. Help me to grow in these Fruit every day. Send people into my life who will encourage me to cultivate them. Be with me in times of temptation so that I can keep producing Fruit. And inspire me to inspire others to grow in the Spirit, so that I am not only producing Spiritual Fruit but encouraging others to do the same. Amen.
Grow in the Spirit on a daily basis!
Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website!
Fr. Stavros has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
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