You Shall Know Them by Your Subjective Evaluation of Their Fruit.

photoIf it were only this easy with thorny people.

“You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?” ~ Jesus (Matthew 7:16)

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” ~ The Apostle Paul addressing the church in Galatia. (Galatians 5:22-23) 

We Christians think we’re good at fruit inspection.  We think we’re uniquely qualified to evaluate fruit, or the lack there of, in others.  I’d have to admit though, that for the most part, I think the Church has caved into relativism regarding fruity terminology.  Likewise, anti-fruit terms like arrogance, pride, hatred, discord, jealousy, rage, selfish ambition, divisiveness etc., are often relegated to the purely speculative and fanciful notions of the person speaking them in the moment.   For example, when someone tells me that they think I’m being arrogant, I often ask, “How am I being arrogant?”  Other than the response, “well, you just are,” I’ve heard very few reasonably laid out explanations of what being arrogant is.  I’ve rarely heard arrogance be defined in such a way that would help me recognize it in myself and convince me to be otherwise.  Take any other word, positive or negative, regarding someone else’s behavior, and it seems to fit the pattern.  “You’re not speaking the truth in love!”  What does that mean?  “You’re being prideful!”  How am I being prideful?  etc. 

What does unkindness look like?  How is it properly defined?  Shouldn’t a believer be able to describe and define it if they’re going to accuse others of being so?  What about “hate speech?” and “bigotry,” and “Judgmental?”  Believers and non-believers alike throw these terms about without consensus or clarity.  How are believers suppose to incarnate change amongst others when they aren’t adequately able to differentiate between an ass and an apple?  How can you possibly presume to know anyone by their fruit when you can’t even describe or define fruit?  We talk past each other like we’re rooting for opposing teams and yet both sides demonstrate an express laziness.  As far as believers and unbelievers together, it is unlikely that they’ll be able to come to a consensus on many of these terms because “spiritual things are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14)   But as to the Christian community, there’s no good reason to remain in abject ignorance and be ruled by our existential, emotional, and subjective notions.

The assumption, according to Jesus, Is that we have the capacity to identify both good and bad fruit.  I don’t think that the fruit by which we identify people should be left to sheer speculation and unfounded subjectivity.  What do you think?

Are the fruits expressed by others in their actions and words able to be objectively identified?

Can fruitful or unfruitful actions and words be defined?

Is it ok to question others as to why they think you are being  _________?




0 thoughts on “You Shall Know Them by Your Subjective Evaluation of Their Fruit.

  1. Hi Miguel. Although it’s not possible to measure the level of things like love or joy or peace numerically, that’s not the same as lack of objectivity. There are certainly useful things we can say about the fruit in people we know. For example, it’s not hard to tell that a person has grown in joy over a period of time.

    Comparing one person with another may not be so straightforward, but it’s not impossible. And why would Jesus tell us about the fruit of the Spirit if he didn’t want us to look for them?

    Of course, we should mostly search ourselves for this fruit. Where might I have loved more? Could I be more gentle? How often do I lose self-control and say or do things I later regret?

    Thanks for a good, thought-provoking article. Something to ponder over the holiday period 🙂

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