Confusion - Fruit and Law

Confusion - Fruit and Law

We have confused law and legalism with the fruit of the Spirit.

Author: Greg Gay/Monday, January 13, 2014/Categories: Greg Gay, Freedom from Religion, Top Picks

This is Part 4 in a series called Freedom from Religion.

My family moved from California to the province of Alberta, Canada, when I was 7 years old; it was truly an adventure. My dad had accepted a position managing what was known as the V—V (Vee bar Vee) which, at 72,400 acres (almost 300 square kilometers or 113 square miles), was the largest privately owned ranch in Canada at the time.

Needless to say, this was quite an exciting place for a young boy to grow up. It was full of all kinds of adventure and opportunity and I didn’t have to look far for what soon became one of my favorite places on the entire ranch. You see, about fifty yards from our front door, was a cluster of bullberry bushes. I am often surprised at how many Albertan’s don’t know about this delicacy, but that is ok, because then there is more for me!

My friend Kelly Anderson was the only other boy my age within about 30 miles of the ranch. One day, when we were out exploring, Kelly spotted the bullberries. He knew exactly what they were and thus we began to feast.

Bullberries (also known as Buffalo Berries or technically “Shepherdia”) are little red berries that grow wild on greenish-silver shrubs in western / northern North America. They have quite a bitter-sweet taste - a little bit like “sweet tart” candies but more tart than sweet. They make your mouth “pucker up.” I instantly fell in love with them. 

Kelly and I had the whole place to ourselves, so we had all we could eat. As a matter of fact, we probably ate handfuls of those berries for at least half an hour and we both got a bit of a sore stomach later that day, but it was worth it!  

Over the years, I spent a lot of time in that location and others, getting my fruit fix. I still love bulberries, and, if you come see me in early September when they mature, I’ll even take you and show you where they grow. However, I might have to blindfold you first! :-) 

Many of you reading this probably don’t know much about bullberries; however, you might be quite well acquainted with another kind of fruit—the fruit of the Spirit. Some of you can even quote the verses from Galatians 5:22-24 by heart. Then again, maybe some of you have never discovered this fruit at all.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (NASB)


Ya’, ya’, ya’ right? Same old, same old. I am not always good at all of this stuff are you? How can I do better? I need to get to work and crucify that flesh!  

It makes me think of the joke that goes something like this: “Lord, please give me patience NOW!!!!”

We laugh, but deep down inside we know we have issues that we need to work on. Issues that we need to get sorted out, right? 

Let’s check this out in the Message translation of the Bible. It often brings things to life for those of us who don’t know Greek or Hebrew, and can’t read the original texts to get a better grasp on what is being said.

But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.
Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way. Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good—crucified. 

So, let’s stop for a minute. What are we talking about here? Let’s get some facts straight:

  • We are talking about the fruit of the Spirit, not the fruit of Greg or Kyle or Dawn or Barb or Fred. “He brings gifts into our lives....”
  • Legalism is helpless in bringing about all this good fruit. It only gets in the way.
  • Those who belong to Christ no longer have to play a religious game because Jesus provided everything we need in Him through his crucifixion and resurrection.
  • You can have all you want.

Whoa! This changes everything! Now I get it. Do you see it?

I don’t bring about the fruit of the Spirit in my life, the Holy Spirit does. My own striving to be loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle or self-controlling will always fall short and turn into a self-righteousness that will both deceive myself and others, as I attempt to legislate good behavior to those I come into contact with.

What's the bottom line? We have confused law and legalism with the fruit of the Spirit. 

Our confusion between law and fruit is causing a lot of damage. It has, and is, keeping many in religious bondage and keeps some from coming into the Kingdom of God at all. For hundreds and hundreds of years, the Church has taught that holiness and the bearing of fruit only comes from a type of penance which requires great amounts of work and effort on our part. This is actually contrary to the Gospel. We have been taught to “Try to bear good fruit!” and if that doesn’t work then, “Try harder!” 

Legalism says, “You need to do better and grow fruit!” 

God Says, “Bear fruit for me that the Holy Spirit grows, not you!”

Romans 7:4-6 (NASB) Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death. But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.
Romans 8:4 (The Message) - The law always ended up being used as a Band-Aid on sin instead of a deep healing of it. And now what the law code asked for but we couldn’t deliver is accomplished as we, instead of redoubling our own efforts, simply embrace what the Spirit is doing in us. 

If we confuse law with fruit, we will chase others away from the Kingdom of God by insisting that they “double-down” on sin and become just like we are. That isn’t going to help anyone. Instead, let’s receive the “deep healing” that only comes by fully embracing Jesus, and what the Holy Spirit is already doing, and, will do in their lives. Let’s encourage each other to rest in what Jesus has done, not what we think we can do. 

Sometimes the best fruit is the wild stuff that you can’t cultivate yourself… and ya’ know what? You can have all you want! 

This is Part 4 in a series called Freedom from Religion.

 (c) Greg Gay 2014


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Greg Gay
Greg Gay

Greg Gay

Greg resides in Canada, with his wife Dawn and his Les Paul guitar.

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