Those who pursue discipleship of Jesus Christ quickly begin to hear about bearing fruit. We were given the presence and power of the Holy Spirit to do just this. While the Holy Spirit gives the fruits of the Spirit to those who have received it, we are called to take those gifts and graces, and then utilize them for the Kingdom of God. Sounds simple enough, perhaps even easy, but anyone who has been in ministry, ordained or not, will tell you that it is far from easy. Spiritual fruit, like any earthly harvest, takes time, dedication, and hard labor. If you are committed to carrying out the mission Christ gave to us at his ascension, then you has better be actively asking the Lord for perseverance.
There are, unfortunately, plenty of Christians who are laboring to pass the time. They are not doing anything bad per se, but they are not directing their actions to bearing fruit specifically. The Church withers and dies when the Body of Christ is focused internally at the expense of making disciples for Jesus Christ. Jesus’ eye was ever directed towards the lost, the sick, the imprisoned, the stranger, and those that yearned for salvation. If we allow ourselves to become about accomplishing what makes us feel good, secure, or righteous, then we stop being Christ-centered and enter into the spiritually dangerous realm of self-centered, even as a community. So it is that we must continually reflect theologically about our work for the Kingdom. Are we laboring to bear fruit specifically?
Fruit-centered labor acknowledges some difficult truths: we may never fully recognize or see the fruit that we labor to bear. We may see signs of it, even the promise of its emergence, but never have the benefit of being in one place or in close proximity long enough to see it come to full fruition. That is hard to accept. Yet when Christ left and returned to heaven, there were only eleven disciples left and they were frightened, alone, and confused. Entrusting them to the coming presence of the Holy Spirit, Christ was able to return to the Father, knowing that the will of God would be ultimately accomplished by the faithful and committed that remain. We, the spiritual descendants of the first Apostles, are charged with this same willingness to let go and entrust the ultimate outcome to the Lord. It means relinquishing power and control. It means embodying faith. We respond to this divine truth by focusing on right word and deed: speaking the truth in love, granting grace to all who ask for our forgiveness, and constantly engaging the world in acts of kindness and mercy. We make the Gospel our mantra, so that the truth of salvation for all who would accept God’s grace permeates our lives. It does not mean that we have less work, but more. We accept the hard labor, because we know that diligent discipleship can yield fruit years, decades, and even lifetimes from now. We dig deep, scatter widely, and sow intentionally. If not, then we are just hanging around while people languish in sin. We have no such right, and God calls forth no such existence from those who claim and bear the holy name of Christ.