But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23 ESV)
What’s your favorite fruit? Oranges? Apples? Pears? How would you describe its taste?
Our tongue’s taste buds sense sweetness, saltiness, bitterness, and sourness. And we also sense food’s fat content and spiciness. So, you could describe your favorite fruit’s flavor using combinations of any of those qualities.
But, how would you describe the differences between apples and pears? They’re similar in many respects, but when biting into a pear you know it’s not an apple. Of course, there’s the texture; even a grainy apple is less so than a pear. And you never peal a pear because its skin is tender. That says nothing about their flavor, though. When drinking pear juice you know it’s not apple juice. They’re both sweet, but besides that, you sense a certain, indefinable difference. If pressed on the matter, about all you could say is, “It just tastes like an apple.”
Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” So, how does that fruit taste? We don’t know about that, ’cause we bear spiritual fruit; only God tastes it. But he did tell us how it tastes in the Galatians passage above.
To God, our ripe, fully developed fruit of the Spirit tastes like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. If it lack any of those qualities, it’s not quite ready, like an unripe orange that tastes like cardboard. I don’t know about you, but when I bite into a dry, tasteless orange, it goes into the waste bin.
Fortunately for us all, God isn’t me. Where I “love” fruit only when it tastes like it’s supposed to, he loves us even when our fruit is of low quality. That’s called grace, but if we love the Lord we want to bear the best fruit possible.
If we bear no fruit, however, well, God is very explicit about unfruitful branches:
“Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” (John 15:2)
If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. (John 15:6 ESV)
That’s not a threat; that’s just the way it is. An unfruitful branch is called a sucker, that just robs nutrients from the fruitful branches. Are the spiritual implications obvious enough?