Recently we planted some strawberries in our backyard…and so far they are still clinging to life. But a lot of of them are starting look pretty bad. We have tasked my 6 year old with remembering to water them…so that probably explains some of it. When I was watching him water the plants, he was very carefully watering each individual strawberry instead of the soil and the plant itself. I may not have a green thumb, but I do know that the water needs to come up through the roots. Maybe if I learned more about agriculture, I would understand more about how God works in and through our hearts because the Bible is FULL of farming metaphors. And that is where we find ourselves today…in probably the most recognizable passage of Galatians…the fruit of the spirit. When it comes to our Christian faith, like my son, we become so focused on the fruit. We WILL ourselves to be more patient with our children, or we somehow think that if we just try harder, we will become more peaceful or joyful. But Paul is saying that thinking is basically like looking at a big lemon tree and only watering the actual lemon. The fruit is simply a byproduct of a healthy plant. We are simply the Branch connected to the Vine, being cared for by the Gardener. All the Branch has to do to produce fruit is to stay connected.
Once they are picked, there is no hope for my withered strawberries because they have been disconnected from the source of life. No matter how hard the severed little branch tries, it will never produce good healthy fruit. The same is true for our lives. Paul says when we stay connected to Jesus, when we live a life filled with the Holy Spirit, fruit is the byproduct. The fruit we are producing in our lives is basically just a thermometer to show the health of our relationship with Jesus.