Friday, June 06, 2008

For H, who asked on Sunday

"Are the Fruit of the Spirit and the Gifts of the Spirit the same thing? What's that all about?"

Let's look at it this way: Suppose we all got together to build a big house. Along comes the project supervisor to organize us. He hands one person a hammer, and says "you're going to hammer in the nails." He hands another a paint brush, and says "you paint the walls." He hands another a set of plans and says "you're going to be the on-site supervisor." To another person he hands a broom and says "you're going to clean things up, so they look nice." He takes a couple people over to a small portable kitchen and says "you're in charge of feeding the crew, and encouraging them by bringing them drinks and treats." Then he grabs a few more, hands them some flyers, and says "Go out into the town and tell people about our wonderful house, and all the great things it will offer them." And on and on it goes. Each person is given a tool (some people even get a couple tools) that they are to use together to build the house. Hardly any two people have the same set of tools, but all the tools necessary for building the house are there, divided among all the workers. And so we get to work, each doing their part to build up this house.

Now, people do pitch in and help each other out. The fact that I have a hammer doesn't mean I can't set it down and help hang some wallpaper for a few minutes. The fact that I'm in charge of yardwork doesn't mean I can't stop and chat with passers-by who want to know what's going on. Even if I'm the on-site supervisor, I can still help the food people hand out sandwiches. We all pitch in together, doing what needs to be done, but mostly we remain in our area of expertise, and slowly the house is built.

This is how it works with the Gifts of the Spirit.

However, while we are at work building this house, using our individual tools and talents, we should ALL be joyful in our task. We should ALL be patient with each other. If the site supervisor comes along and says "I blew it - that trench needs to be over three feet," we can forgive her and joyfully make the correction. If the sandwiches are late in coming, we should all be patient while waiting. If they bring me tuna fish and I wanted PB&J, I ought to be kind in my response. If a child is working next to me and knocks over the paint can, I should strive for gentleness in my reaction. All along, I ought to be looking for ways to encourage the other workers. And we should all work hard at making sure we're in the best possible condition to do the work to which we are called. We know that if we're out late at night getting plastered, we'll be in no condition to show up to work bright and cheery in the new day. So we avoid the "works of the flesh" and strive for the fruit of the Spirit.

The good thing is, we don't have to manufacture love, joy, peace, patience, and the rest. These are not our own attitudes, but the fruit that the Spirit works in us. As we draw nearer to God, God's Spirit works in us to produce loving hearts, patient demeanors, joyous spirits, gentle attitudes, and the like. Yes, we do well to "work" at demonstrating these fruits, but in the end we seek God and let God bring them about in us.

In short, we're each given a tool, or a couple tools, that we use in concert with all others to build up the Kingdom of God and share his love in the world, but the Spirit works his fruit in all of us, so that, as we work, our lives and attitudes will reflect His hand upon us.

Hope that answers your question.

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