A few weeks ago I heard a sermon about how we Christians often settle for “Counterfeit Fruit” in our lives instead of seeking the Fruit of the Spirit. This results in a counterfeit Christianity. It works like this:
Instead of love for everyone, loving like Jesus does, we settle for tolerance for those with different viewpoints. Tolerance might be a good practice, but it certainly falls short of love.
Instead of joy we seek happiness. It’s good to be happy, but it doesn’t sustain us in the hard times.
Conflict avoidance is not the same thing as peace – peace WITH God and our fellow man, and the peace OF God that can come even in the midst of conflict.
We have elevated self-improvement and ambition above patience, niceness above true kindness, and nostalgia for the way things used to be in the good old days for seeking how to be truly good in this present day.
Often we practice passivity instead of gentleness, self-fulfillment instead of self-control.
We are asked to be loyal to the company to the point of sacrifice rather than to be faithful to the things that are truly important.
There might not be anything wrong with these “counterfeit fruits” unless they keep us from seeking the real thing. For example, we certainly do want to avoid conflict and be nice, unless that keeps us from getting to a place of true understanding that results in real peace with others.
As I’ve been thinking about this subject I thought about my mother-in-law. She passed away a number of years ago, but she was a true example to me of someone in whom the Fruit of the Spirit was evident. She was the Real Thing. She was a gentle, kind woman who loved to do things for others and had a quick laugh. She welcomed me into her family from the first day that I met her, and I never felt anything but kindness and generosity from her.
After we had been married about 18 years or so, papa had gone to heaven and Mom B had come to stay with us for a while – She stunned me by telling me that she did not like me when she first met me but had come to truly love me through the years. Whoa. Well I knew WHY she had a hard time with me in the beginning. I was a 19 year old who hadn’t been a Christian long and didn’t have much church background. Her son felt called to ministry. I clearly didn’t know how to handle that lifestyle. In addition, I was from Ohio with a strong Northern accent. Mom and Dad Bearden lived most of their lives in Mississippi and Alabama, and we did have a hard time understanding each other sometimes – our accents as well as our customs!
But to tell you the truth, her “confession” didn’t hurt me at all because I saw in a flash what it meant to love someone with the love of Jesus; and I prayed in that moment (and many times since then) that I would be able to treat people with kindness and love even if we had differences, or if I didn’t particularly like them. As far as I can tell, no one knew except Jesus how she really felt about me, but because of her relationship with Him and her desire to be like Him, she surrendered herself completely to Him and just decided to love me like she did the rest of the family. She knew that God called her to a life of holiness that included loving others like He did, and I know she believed that He could help her live that way if she trusted Him to do the work in her.
There was no counterfeit fruit in her, no counterfeit Christianity, no faking it. She walked with the Lord every day, she read and studied her Bible to learn His ways, she trusted His work in her life, and she tried to follow Jesus’ example.
If we settle for the counterfeit fruit of niceness and tolerance and passivity instead of the higher virtues of kindness, love and gentleness our Christianity is also counterfeit – We’re just faking it. The Fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control – come to maturity as we surrender ourselves to the Lord, allow Him to work in our lives, and cooperate with that work rather than fighting against it, or settling for less than the Real Thing. This is called Holiness.
And why do we aspire to this kind of life? 2 Corinthians 6:16-18 through 7:1 reminds us that as believers in Christ
"...We are the temple of the living God. As God has said: 'I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people…I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.' Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God."
Beth Marie Bearden gave her heart to Christ when she was a young teenager and soon after felt God calling her to ministry.