A GOOD WORD

Start: Sat, January 30 | 9:30am

The Key to a Fruitful Year

 

By Jim Lutkevich

 

One of the symptoms, or side effects, of spending time in youth and children’s ministry work is that the adult volunteer is left with a compendium of silly games and songs rattling around inside his or her head, awaiting the right moment to leak back out. One song that has real persistence in my head is “The Fruit of the Spirit’s Not a Coconut.” It is based on Galatians 5:22–23 and uses silliness and hand motions to induce students to memorize the actual fruits of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, in the guise of a funny song.  (Check it out on YouTube if you don’t have a youth who can sing it for you—if you are brave!)

 

That song came to mind recently when our growth group was discussing Pastor Dane’s excellent new book Gentle and Lowly. The book strongly makes several points about our relationship with Jesus and, specifically, his expectations of us. In contrast to what we might assume, Jesus does not expect us to we come to him all clean and tidy, with our sinful actions well in our past, but to come to him as the sinful people we are. In fact, Jesus loves us even more because he has already handled our sin and treats us with love, not condemnation.

 

Dane’s book does a much better job of explaining it than I just did, but the idea provoked a good discussion, mostly along the lines of the contrast between Jesus’ approach and the life we live “in the world.” In our worldly life, we are subject to expectations of behavior or achievement, and most of our relationships end up being transactional to some degree or another. We earn favor, achieve things, feel entitled (or unworthy), and reap the rewards we work for. Jesus’ approach is radical—his heart for us is already there; we only need to come to him and enjoy his love.

 

The next day, the lyrics of the “Fruit of the Spirit” song once again leaked out, and I realized that, after all the times I have repeated the litany of fruits, I had never recognized that none of the fruits listed is transactional. Love, joy, peace, patience (well, maybe a little), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (whatever that is) are gifts that are passed to us freely in the Spirit, and we, in turn, enjoy them and live our lives in them.

 

Since Pastor Dane will be preaching through Galatians, I don’t want to steal his thunder (joking!) by saying much about the context for the Galatians 5:22–23, except that it falls after preceding verses that highlight the results of the works of the flesh (strife, envy, and others)—those verses contrast these works of the flesh and the wonderful Fruit of the Spirit.

 

So, let’s resolve to make 2021 a fruit-filled year by gratefully enjoying the work of the Spirit in and through us.

 

Maybe we should change the song to “The Fruit of the Spirit Is not Transactional”—even though that doesn’t lend itself to cute hand motions—because that’s the real lesson. These fruits are free gifts for us to enjoy, gifts from a loving God.