Soon the squirrels will be scouring the walnut, oak and beech trees for their nuts. In the flower garden, pods have begun to develop on iris, columbine, and even the smiling pansies. Everything that grows pours its energy into producing seed that will perpetuate the species. How could we enjoy summer without strawberries and corn, cherries and melons, peaches and green beans?
What about fruit in the spiritual realm? “Are we fruitful?” As Jesus makes clear, fruitfulness distinguishes those who are truly His disciples. “Watch out for false prophets.…By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistle? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. …Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire”(Matt. 7:15-20). In verse 21 of this passage, Jesus clarifies that, in this context, fruitfulness is doing the will of the Father.
The will of the Father includes many things; central among them is that we believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior. (See John 6:40, 3:15,16) In a moral sense, the ten commandments define God’s will for us, as do the commandments and teachings of Jesus which further illuminate the moral law. In terms of what we believe, we are fruitful if we believe what is true as revealed by God. Otherwise, as Jesus said in Matthew seven, we are false prophets. But beyond being true and right in our beliefs there must be love.
In essence, to be fruitful is to be loving. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.…and love your neighbor as yourself”(Matt. 22:37,39). Hence, a fruitful person is one who is ravished by God’s love and expresses that love for God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—deeply and sincerely. He is also one who is loving, forgiving, and compassionate in all his relationships with other people.
Paul further identifies the various facets of spiritual love as joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Gal. 5:22,23) A life manifesting this kind of fruitfulness is influential. It lights up the place where the loving person lives. (Matt. 5:13-16) It raises questions in those who are not Christian. “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have”(1 Peter 3:15).
Living things produce fruit in order to reproduce their species. While Christians should bear fruit to glorify God, that process of glorifying God should result in others being attracted to the gospel of grace. Maybe we all can’t be soul-winners, but we all should be so attractive that non-Christians seek us out as bees seek out the sweet nectar in flowers. Let’s pray to that end and be prepared to give a reason for our faith in Christ.