We’re halfway through our walk with Becoming More Fruitful in Cross-Cultural Work. In recap, we’ve explored the relationship between metrics and the fruitfulness discussed in Galatians 5 (and how our metrics are good, but not supreme). Then last week, we discussed love, joy, and peace, which can be grouped together as “upwardly oriented” because their primary direction is God-ward.
Today we probably won’t have anything to discuss since we’re focusing on the fruit that tend to be more involved in working with people and working with people is so easy. Ha! (If you didn’t get last months’ “Team Bundle,” you should, because it has three must-have resources for working with others.)
Patience, kindness, and goodness have been described as “social virtues that primarily focus on the Christian in his or her relationship to others.”
Here’s a short passage that unpacks a truth that just might change everything for you:
“Reading about grapes in the Scriptures, there is much that I, as a nonagrarian-culture person, could miss. We discussed earlier that by choosing to compare the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to grapes, God reminds us that we are capable of far more than werealize. We don’t have to choose or settle for some of the fruit; all nine can coexist at the same time in the same person (my mind is still blown by this fact!). But this is not the only gem hidden in plain sight. Paul also chose grapes because the original recipients of the letter would have heard something you probably missed. I missed it too. When I taught a culture class to Chinese scholars visiting America, one of my favorite lessons to teach was baseball.More than any other sport, baseball has influenced the thinking and sayings of English. When a parent says to her daughter, “That’s strike two,” both know what she means even if neither has ever held a bat. So it is with grapes and Paul’s original readers.
“The Galatians understood that grapes produce fruit in rocky soil. A grapevine can grow in many environments, but in a more “favorable” environment without rocks, stones, and other impediments, they don’t produce fruit. Instead, a vine happily grows lush green leaves. Okay, I don’t know if a plant can feel happy, but that’s the sense I get when I picture a vine growing up a trellis. Almost daily you can see the plant spread. If Paul compares us to plants, Jamie Goode, British author with a PhD in plant biology, makes the opposite comparison—plants to people:
“Making the vines struggle generally results in better quality grapes. It’s a bit like people. Place someone in a near-perfectenvironment, giving them every comfort and all that they could ever want to satisfy their physical needs, and it could have rather disastrous consequences for their personality and physique. If you take a grapevine and make its physical requirements for water and nutrients easily accessible, then (somewhat counterintuitively) it will give you poor grapes.12
“Like the recipients of the letter to the Galatians, we need to be reminded that the life of the Holy Spirit leads to freedom. By placing freedom in rocky soil, God gently places His hands on our cheeks and turns us from gazing at a fantasy to seeing our own faces squarely in the mirror. Left on my own, I am tempted to romanticize the conditions that will produce the sweet juicy fruit in me, believing that the idealized conditions will lead to idealized versions of myself. Early-morning Amy with her cup of tea and quiet preparation for the day is far more patient than later-in-the-day Amy when her plans are thwarted by the internet going out or a prolonged red light or a person who cannot pick up on social cues. It’s tempting for me to believe that if only people and problems didn’t come my way, I would be my true self.
“As we consider patience, kindness, and goodness, we will focus on what those who heard this first already knew: we need the stones of life to produce fruit.” (pages 72-74)
How does this truth help you see stones in your own life differently? How does it inform your sense of what it means to be fruitful?
Book Club this week meets October 19th: 11:00 a.m. MDT/1:00 p.m. EDT (note time change for this week due to a previously scheduled engagement)