Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Fruits of the Holy Spirit (1) introduction

This is a new series, the follow-up to my series about the "Gifts of the Holy Spirit."

In the previous series I listed the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit and their scriptural references and commentary.

In this series I will do the same regarding the twelve fruits of the Holy Spirit.

First, let me put this in a context for you to understand two things: why God organizes spirituality and sanctity to follow any sort of list of personal qualities, and what the differences are between gifts and fruits, and how are they related.

There is not a list of these gifts or fruits in the Bible, dictated by God, as God provides in the obvious example The Ten Commandments or Jesus provides in The Beatitudes (the blessings). But that does not mean that they are not "from the Bible," because they are. From the earliest times both Jewish and Christian students of scripture and thus their teachers have distilled from the Bible the lessons and insights that can be gleaned.

For example, the first and most fundamental gift of the Holy Spirit, "Fear of the Lord," does not appear in a list of gifts, but there is repeated reference throughout scripture that Fear of the Lord is a gift from God, that it is basic and essential to faith and truthful knowledge of both God but also the world, and the benefits of Fear of the Lord.

Scholars have combed through the scriptures and very early on gleaned what gifts God, through his Holy Spirit, provides to humanity as a whole, that can and must be cultivated by each recipient. Therefore I provided in the series the Gifts of the Holy Spirit the most obvious places in scripture from which scholars studied and cited to recognize each of those seven gifts. So that is why God organized what humans have put into a list format. It is not a "performance check list" by any means.

Rather, let's think of it in computer terms, where the list of gifts is like a "shortcut" to access an application that runs on your computer. Rather than entering a bunch of commands to get to the application, you have an icon that gives you a direct route to the application. The icon itself is not the application, but a picture of it that takes you to the application. Likewise the gift "Fear of the Lord" is a lengthy application, which one must humbly receive and cultivate from the Lord. Putting it on the list of "Gifts of the Holy Spirit" is simply the pointer that scripture discusses that this gift exists and it is essential to both faith and truth. So God, in order to make himself more understandable and to uplift humans to their genuine potential under his holy guidance, provides a great deal of sacred verbiage in the scriptures, organized in a way that people can be open to applying, such as "Fear of the Lord," "Piety," or "Fortitude." A gift from the Holy Spirit is not like having an object or a talent given to you, poof, just like that. So let us now move into explaining how to best think of the gifts and the fruits.

Let's start with analogies. A gift of the Holy Spirit is like learning how to play a musical instrument. While some people are born as prodigies and fast learners, even they must recognize that a musical instrument exists, and they must become proficient in its use. Some people learn by imitating other musicians in their family, others learn by steady and frequent practice, while others learn by responding to their ear where what they play sounds good to them and others.

A fruit of the Holy Spirit is the benefit that is achieved for both one's self and the world as a whole by using appropriately what was given to them as a gift. Using again this analogy a young person who learns to play a musical instrument might receive fruits as a result of that gift in a number of ways, individual and personal to them. They might not ever do anything with that instrument other than enjoy a few years in band or other activities in high school. They might continue to play but only for their own enjoyment or their family's or friends'. They might use that instrument in church services or other faith or secular events. They might become a teacher of that instrument. They might become a talented amateur or they might become a talented professional. They might use their knowledge of the instrument to better manage the careers of other musical professionals. See? The gift is not "standard" to any one person any more than the resulting "fruit" is standard to any one person.

Likewise you cannot jump to conclusions about who "uses" their gifts "best" or is most "worthy" of those gifts. That is a severe error that is one of human beings' most disastrous flaws. It can be best explained by an example.

Two people each receive the gift of music, sticking to our analogy. They reach equal levels of proficiency. One goes on to volunteer her musical instrument talent to the church choir, and thus dedicates much time to donating her gift. Her fruit is that she is an essential part of the church services that many benefit from.

The other person does nothing with her musical instrument and it sits in the closet. Ah ha, you are thinking, she "wasted" her gift. No..... that's the great error I am going to point out to you. One day years after her musical lessons were received and the instrument has been untouched, her grandmother is dying of an illness. That woman brings her untouched musical instrument out of the closet and plays for her grandmother to ease her pain, and to help her pass the time remembering the good things in life. The fruit of this woman's gift was just as precious as the one who weekly donates in choir practice.

I hope that you have found this helpful and I look forward to working on this series with you.

FRUITS of the Holy Spirit