Have you ever been strolling innocently through the produce section looking for scallions, when suddenly your nose is taken captive by an irresistible aroma that pulls you, powerless, toward the display of fragrant peaches? You canít inhale deeply enough, and you almost need a napkin, your mouth waters so. Your hand reaches out of its own accord and caresses the delicate fruit, pressing each one ever so slightly to determine perfect ripeness before placing peach after velvety peach gently into your cart.
Have you ever met a saint whose face radiated peace and joy, selfless love and goodness? That person is as irresistible as any perfect peach. You want to know her, spend time with her, ask her what she knows, put her in your cart and take her home. She is the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. She is bearing the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
I want to be that person. The thing is, I canít make myself into that person. Fruit grows, not by the will of a branch, but from the sustenance of the Vine. The fruit of the Spirit will grow in me inasmuch as I abide in Him, the true Vine. I look at the list of sweet characteristics and want to make a to-do list of them. Be more loving. Be joyful. Have peace, and be longsuffering, except toward whatís-his-name. Wrong tack entirely and destined to fail. Thatís like attaching fruit to a stick with duct tape. It looks ugly and isnít going to fool anybody. At best I seem clueless, at worst I look like a hypocrite.
The list of the fruits of the Spirit found in Galatians chapter five is useful, though. Itís valuable for use in self-examination. Any morning, when I am sitting at Jesusí feet in prayer, I can read through the list and take stock of myself. Do I exhibit Christ-like love? Are my days and my conversations marked by joy and peace? Am I patient with others and kind to them? Am I good, faithful, and gentle? Ooh, and do I practice self-control? If my honest answers are not satisfactory then I must not be abiding in the Vine. I must ask my Jesus what has gone awry. How have I let loose of Him so that His life-giving love and power cannot get to this branch that is me? A few minutes of sober meditation will surely reveal some unconfessed sin, and likely a sad neglect of His Word or of prayer.
Each fruit on the list can reveal something of my spiritual state. Perhaps I am bearing the fruit of kindness, but failing to exhibit self-control. I eat too much or donít guard my tongue. If I am faithful, but not at peace, perhaps I am allowing fear and anxiety to control me. Whatever is revealed in my self-examination, I will confess it and ask my Savior to help me. His Word is replete with wisdom and specific instruction to guide me. He wants me to be fruitful and is ready to fill me with his power the moment I will submit to it.
With Paul I acknowledge that, like it or not, ďwe are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life.Ē And Paul understands what a great responsibility that is, because he says, ďAnd who is sufficient for these things?Ē I know I am by no means sufficient. I must abide in Christ, and He in me, so that on this branch the fruit of the Spirit will grow and be fragrant, drawing those around me to Jesus.