There’s not just one list of the Spirit’s fruit!

When we Christians wanna list the Spirit’s fruit, most of the time we go off the Paul’s list in Galatians.

Galatians 5.22-24 KWL
22 The Spirit’s fruit is: Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness.
Goodness. Faith. 23 Gentleness. Self-governance.
The Law isn’t contrary to any such thing.
24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus, crucify our flesh with its impulses and desires.

We might go with alternate translations of some of these words, like longsuffering and temperance and faithfulness (which is a really inaccurate interpretation of πίστις/pístis, “faith”). But generally yeah, that’s the proof text we memorize, wear T-shirts of, tattoo on our wrists… and don’t follow ’cause we think fruit grows spontaneously.

But I gotta keep reminding people it’s not a comprehensive list. The Spirit produces more fruit in us than that. And elsewhere in the bible, you’re gonna find other lists of his fruit.

Colossians 3.12-15 KWL
12 So like God’s chosen and beloved children, put on:
Compassionate mercy. Kindness. Humility. Gentleness. Patience.
13 Supporting one another and forgiving our own,
when one of us might have a disagreement with another:
Like the Master forgives us, you forgive too.
14 Over all these things, love, which joins the whole together.
15 Have Christ’s peace, into which you were called as one body, govern your minds. Be thankful!

Because Paul and Timothy didn’t bluntly say this was a list of the Spirit’s fruit, Christians quibble about whether it really is. And of course the reason we wanna dismiss it… is because we don’t care to do it. Bad enough we struggle to show any evidence of the list from Galatians; now there are four more behaviors—mercy, humility, forgiveness, and thankfulness—we gotta fake!

And of course there’s the command the apostles used at the top of the list: Ἐνδύσασθε/endýsasthe, “put on.” The NIV renders it “clothe yourselves,” ’cause yeah, the ancient Greeks used this word to describe putting on clothing. So these traits don’t automatically come from within, as Jesus pointed out. Not unless we, with the Spirit’s help, first put ’em there.

But we’d rather imagine humans are inherently good, or that the Holy Spirit within us has fixed all our selfish impulses—and therefore we need do nothing but sit back and let the goodness flow out of us. And of course it’s rubbish, but it’s popular rubbish, and why so many Christians produce no fruit, and instead highlight any substitutes for fruitfulness we can imagine.

References to individual fruits.

The Spirit’s fruit is God’s character. It describes his personality. It describes Jesus’s motives: This is what he thinks of us, and how he behaves towards us. And if we’re following Jesus, and are letting the Spirit guide us, this is how we’re gonna come to think and behave. We’re gonna adopt God’s attitudes. Our character is gonna become his.

So that’s how we define fruit—and how we immediately recognize when the scriptures refer to the Spirit’s fruit. We don’t need the Colossians list to state, “This is the Spirit’s fruit”—we know it’s the Spirit’s fruit, because we know these traits are part of who he is. We recognize him. We realize, “I gotta be this way too”—not “Aw crap, more stuff to do.”

And we can easily identify when other bible verses refer to fruit. Like this one.

1 John 3.17 KWL
Whoever might have worldly wealth, and might see their fellow Christian in need,
and closes off their sympathy for them: How is God’s love abiding in them?

God’s gonna be sympathetic to his needy kids; therefore we need to be sympathetic towards his needy kids. That’s his fruit. Lacking it suggests we lack other fruit, if not the Holy Spirit himself.

God’s gonna be gracious. Fair. Forgiving to a level we’re just not gonna see in many humans. Generous to a level we’re especially not gonna see in many humans. Honest and truthful; he may not tell us everything, but he’s never gonna lie. Jesus demonstrated how much he hates hypocrisy, so integrity’s a fruit too.

Face it: The list of fruit is pretty darned near unlimited. God has all sorts of great character traits, and there’s no reason his kids can’t share them! Our list of his fruit certainly isn’t limited to Paul’s list in Galatians. Anyone who claims so, is obviously trying to evade their own character development.

And yeah, there are lots of those people in the world. I’ve seen ’em be mighty proud of it on social media. “This is me; this is who I am; I’m not gonna change; take it or leave it.” You notice it’s never the kind people who post such things; it’s always the a--holes. Those memes are their fruit.

God calls us to far, far better. We gotta be like Jesus. 1Jn 2.6 We might start working on that with our actions, but what’s really gonna bring about permanent, transformative change is our character. So we gotta get cracking on that, and get fruity.