You know when you first make an acquaintance? After you exchange names and pleasantries, someone asks the inevitable, “So, what do you do?” This question rules and defines so many of our interactions and first impressions—even in the Church.
I remember a time in life where I felt like I had no place in the Church because my answer to What do you do? was so unexciting. I wasn’t leading a revival, running a ministry or starting an orphanage overseas. I was nannying. Or working at a coffee shop. Or working in a high school. The feelings of inadequacy and insignificance rose like a tide and threatened to steal the joy of my fellowship and the fragrance of my witness.
But it turns out that it’s not necessarily what you do in the Kingdom, so much as it is the way you do those things that manifests the heart of God. Paul writes about this so clearly in 1 Corinthians 13, but we miss the essence of this passage because the tulle of wedding dress fluff often obscures our vision. We’ve associated this passage with matrimony, instead of embracing the key to authentic fruit in the Kingdom of God.
According to Paul, we can move in spiritual gifts, but if we aren’t bearing spiritual fruit, we are nothing. We can affect society, and accomplish grand acts of charity and compassion, but if we do not do so in love, it is altogether worthless. Paul’s words clarify for the believer that the kind of life we live is just as important as what we do with that life. As followers of Jesus, the end doesn’t justify the means if the means don’t reflect the nature of the Father. It is the how, not only the what that carries heavy importance in the Kingdom of God.
“…it’s not necessarily what you do in the Kingdom, so much as it is the way you do those things that manifests the heart of God.”
This awareness of the kind of life we live and the way we do things is crucial to our witness to the world. Have you ever met someone that makes you feel more alive? Or inspires you to reach past yourself and love others more? Or makes you curious about their walk with God or the power of prayer? Chances are it wasn’t their career choice that made you feel that way. It was the authenticity of the fruit of the Spirit in their life.
The fruits of the Spirit are character qualities, or states of being, or emotional expressions. They are things that can be expressed and manifested while mopping a floor, changing a diaper, or managing the finances of a fortune 500 company. This means that greatness in the Kingdom of God is actually accessible to all of us—regardless of titles, class, ethnicity, nationality, age or occupation. It also means that our identity and value comes from connection, not accomplishment.
Interestingly, we seem to know this deep down. We have all met the pastor who is short, impatient, and harsh. The author who is proud. The worship leader who is crass. We’ve met people doing ministry in a way that didn’t leave us edified, blessed, encouraged or challenged. It left us wounded, confused, or disillusioned. Experiences like these confirm what we all intuitively know: that true fruit comes from healthy roots drinking up the goodness and truth of God. That kind of fruit shows up in seasons of hiddenness or promotion, activity or rest, secular occupations or ministry. That kind of fruit bears witness to the kind of God we love and serve.
Our God didn’t just create, but he created relationally. Our God doesn’t just judge, but he judges with mercy and perfection. Our God doesn’t just heal, but he does so tenderly and intimately. It is the way He works in our lives and in the earth that draws our hearts to worship. And it will be the way His followers live in the world that will draw men to the Light.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control…if we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. —Galatians 5:22;25.
More from Hannah Herum:
Be sure to keep an eye out for our upcoming podcast interview with this writer!