HEALTHY EATING: THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT
Galatians 5: 13-23
In a sport like baseball, players are said to have“the whole package” if they can hit, catch, run and throw. In golf, players whocan manage their woods, irons, putter, and sand wedge are usually good at thegame. College application boards looking at high school students who haveapplied for admission to their school usually look for high grades, the qualityof extra-curricular activities, and even how the students express themselvesanswering prepared questions. Those are all people said to have “the wholepackage.” What is “the whole package” of the Christian faith? Does it includefollowing Jesus as Lord? Yes, but there’s more. Does it include Christianactions, not just Christian beliefs? Yes, but there is still more. And does itis include gathering with other Christians for worship, study, and prayertimes? Yes. But like the Ten Commandments, it really does us no good just tokeep some of them. With theCommandments, many remember “Thou shalt not kill” but may ignore “Remember theSabbath, to keep it holy.” And most know “Thou Shalt Not Steal” but “Thou shaltnot covet” is to deeply desire what someone else has, and plenty of people dothat. E-Bay is in business because people all over the world will pay goodmoney for something someone else has. So what is the complete package forChristians beyond considering the Ten Commandments? Some people point to Jesus’interpretation of the commandments: you shall love the Lord your God with all yourheart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. But Jesusdidn’t create those; he knew them from Scripture, and our Jewish friends followthe same teachings and had them first! Where else might we turn?
One of the best sources of Christian characteristicsis from the Apostle Paul, who we featured in Vacation Bible School a year ago.Paul, in Colossians 3, gave characteristics of a Christian, ones that I offeredin a sermon a month and a half ago. But this week during our wonderful journeyto visit Joseph, the son of Jacob, in Egypt, I saw one of the best lists ofChristian characteristics being lived out by those who attended. This week Isaw the whole package from children, youth, and adults. Certainly as humans weare not perfect, but our week came exceptionally close to that higheststandard. The list I saw lived outthis week comes from Paul’s letter to the Galatian Christians. We have offereda series of sermons all month from that book and today we continue it; ourstudy will conclude next week. For today, I am pointing to the wonderfulpassage in Galatians 5: 22-23: The fruit of the Spirit. The proof that you andI are what we say we are, is if the fruit grown from the trees of our lives isfound to be Christian. Do you know people who say they are Christian whoinstead show strife, anger, jealousy, and selfishness? Sadly, Christians thatshow those works of the flesh do more harm than good to the one they callSavior: People start scoffing at Christians, calling them hypocrites or simplyturning from listening to their guidance. But even when we fail, let’s make apact together to strive to show the world, and our families, and our friends,the whole package: The Fruit of the Spirit. Here it is once again: love, joy,peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, andself-control. Notice that Paul calls the early list that had such uglyqualities “the works of the flesh.” This week we talked about the fruits andvegetables we most liked, and I learned that we had some very healthy eaters!In the “words to prepare for worship” I included the word “fruits” of theSpirit because that’s the way we grammatically think about them; as if they areplural. But Paul is describing qualities of Christians who have “the wholepackage.” It is no mistake that he calls fruit singular in Galatians 5. Wedo not have the luxury of picking the qualities easiest for us to show andignoring the qualities that are hardest for us to keep. We cannot love but be continuously impatient; we cannotspread peace effectively while failing to exhibit gentleness where appropriate;we cannot show real kindness when it get run-over by an out-of-control temper.This is the total package. As much as you might think you are loving, if yourfamily is on pins and needles because of your temper, you have work to do; asmuch as you think you are a good person, if you accomplish it with a stern andhumorless manner, then any hope for joy gets squeezed dry. You get the picture:when it comes to the fruit of the Spirit, we cannot “cherry-pick,” (an image Iintended to create!) We are called to take the whole bunch of qualities, likegrapes or bananas, not just one quality and call it good.
What Paul described, and what Jesus lived is not easy,nor should it be listed in the “impossible” column. We can change! A wise father was trying to teach his middleschool aged son some of the lessons he had learned. “Every time you saysomething harsh, hateful, or with bad words to another person, go out to theback fence with this hammer and one of these nail, and drive a nail halfwayinto the wood. If you ever decideto apologize for your actions, go out there again and pull the nail out, butnotice that a scar is left in the wood everywhere the nail was. An apology doesnot remove the scar.” Learning self-control can keep the nail of our actions,from being driven into another person’s feelings in the first place. We can dothat; I have been working on it for years; and I’ve seen people this week whodo it well. Still there are others who need to do it better. I’ll keep trying;how about you?
Let us pray:
Dear God: what a great list you gave us through theApostle Paul! What examples of hope, ability, wisdom, forgiveness, and familyyou gave to Joseph and our Bible School families this week! Thank you for notgiving up on us, but encouraging, guiding, and correcting us instead. Ourprayers are for parents and grandparents dealing with difficult schedules and aworld with different values. Bless our efforts, we pray, and remind us that weare never too old for loving, playing, and learning. Come by here, Lord, righthere, right now, and abide with us forever. Through the power of your HolySpirit we pray. Amen.
Jeffrey A. Sumner June27, 2010