But ask yourself: what does the American church--and in particular, your church--consider the fruit of spiritual life?
I think if the typical modern, American evangelical pastor were to write Galatians 5:22-23, it would look something like this:
"But the fruit of the Spirit is quiet times, Bible study, tithing on the gross, regular attendance, volunteering for ministry, small group membership, modest dress code, victory over sinful lifestyles, and teetotalling." - Galatians 5:22-23, The American Evangelical's Version
Are these things good things? Of course they are--every one. But they are not fruit of the Spirit. They are not evidence of salvation.
What is? I'm going to keep banging this drum until we all understand what Paul taught us. The fruit of the Spirit--the evidence of salvation and commitment to Christ--is having a lifestyle filled with:
- Love - sacrificially loving others and expecting nothing in return, because Christ did this for us
- Joy - the joy of life which can only come from knowing that you deserve nothing but receive grace anyway (literally the word implies a response to grace)
- Peace - tranquility in the soul during good times or bad, because of the proper perspective of this world and its suffering as temporary and passing
- Patience - calm endurance during suffering and waiting times
- Kindness - showing compassion to others
- Goodness - a desire to be morally pure
- Gentleness - meek and mild, not pushy or aggressive
- Faithfulness - loyalty to God regardless of the circumstance
- Self-control - the willingness to deny sensual pleasures
This is the fruit of the spirit. We may do those other things, but they are useless as a guide to questioning salvation or determining a person's spirituality.
It is literally true that if you have a person filled with the nine bullet points above, but who often skips church or never volunteers and doesn't tithe, they are still more Godly than someone who adheres to everything in the make-believe Bible quote above but who lacks those fruits.