By our fruits we will be known. What’s that smell? Why all the flies? What a waste. The rotten fruit of the Spirit is this: conditional love, repressed joy, fake peace, pretended patience, niceness passing as kindness, generosity to those who “deserve” it, narrow-minded faith-fullness, passive-aggressive gentleness, and demanding others control themselves by our own rules. Something sweet and wonderful is reduced to so much garbage when we let it rot on the vine. We take that which God gives as goodness and we waste it — causing it to be so much less than it is intended to be. It all falls apart when we start deciding who is worthy — by our own narrow definitions.
If someone behaves in ways we disapprove, we don’t lower ourselves to love them, merely judge them. Those who find deep and abiding joy in the gift of life are criticized for not taking the faith seriously enough. Focus on doom, gloom, decline and decay is confused with faithfulness. Whenever I talk about harmony and unity, I am accused of trying to undermine the integrity of the church. Patience is no longer a virtue — it is an endangered species. Calls to compassion and support of the poor and marginalized is denigrated as “bleeding heart liberalism” — or given some other equally insulting label. Faithfulness is defined by individuals and segments as a narrow set of beliefs and interpretations. Listening to and through the whole body of believers to discern God’s unfolding gospel is only allowed as long as it doesn’t contradict a simplistic interpretation of a pre-modern Middle Eastern and Mediterranean scripture. Tough love — defined as scoring points and putting others in their place — is preferred to gentleness. Self-control flies in the face of the individualistic, consumeristic, and competitive dominant American culture that has displaced any form of Christian discipleship. The fruit has gone bad.
Until we are willing to take our conditions off of God’s grace, we will continue to lose credibility and relevancy in our world. We have ceased to be counter-cultural, and are now, merely, a shadow of the rest of the world. The fruit of the Spirit will attract people — for its sweetness and nourishment, its lusciousness and goodness. If we are failing to attract new believers it seems pretty simple — no one is going to race to receive decaying and rotten fruit. We need to offer God’s first fruits — not our human leftovers.