(We are all supposed to eat more fruit – five portions a day. We are also told that “we are what we eat”. But what if fruit is not what we eat – but what we produce? What if we can be transformed, from the inside out, to /produce/ fruit?
Sounds strange – but it is true. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility and self control are all fruit produced by the very same force that was there at the beginning of time. You never know, some of the fruit of this force might even help you to eat more healthily. Come along and try.)
22 But the Spirit produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 humility, and self-control. There is no law against such things as these. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have put to death their human nature with all its passions and desires. 25 The Spirit has given us life; he must also control our lives. 26 We must not be proud or irritate one another or be jealous of one another.
Galatians 3: 22-23 (The Message)
But let’s be honest the fruit as the Bible describes them – Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility and self control – sound all a bit ordinary, mundane, worthy even. They are all “nice” words – words to describe your granny or your colleague at work. Let’s face it they’re just not very sexy or exciting
If you’re talking about a smoothie then goodness is key but we all want to be seen as being a bit more interesting than that don’t we? – A bit more cutting edge, not so goody-goody. As the advert says “do you have a wicked side?” The fruit then – designed to make the world a better place but they’re not going to turn the world upside down or on its head.
Instead we pursue what the world tells us counts as success and achievement.
And the church and Christians – do they pursue these fruits? Well no, they’re more interested in the gifts of the spirit – healings, miracles, prophecy, raising the dead, words of knowledge. They sell more books, engage people in more discussions, did it really happen, how can we prove it?
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that the gifts are a bad thing – after all if I’m stuck in a hospital bed, a bowl of fruit isn’t great, I’d prefer to receive the gift of healing however…
I’m not often lying in a hospital bed and there are far more times when I am in need of a kind word or a patient pause or a time of peace. So on a day to day basis maybe the fruits deserve more profile than we give them.
And …. The Bible says we are to have all of the fruit so that we can become more like Jesus – that suddenly sounds much more cutting edge and less goody-goody. To be more like Christ offers us the chance to be more authentic, fully awake, self aware, at one with ourselves, with others, with creation, with the Divine. Remember Jesus was fully human, fully authentically human. If he used his God-side, his Son of Godness – then that leaves us nowhere. We can’t be like Jesus as we don’t have that being Godness. When Jesus became human then he put that “Godness” aside. He was fully human and relied on his relationship with God his Father and the Spirit to live out being fully human. That seems more accessible to me. What about you? And isn’t that what drives our search for spirituality – the sense that there is more to life. To me?
So we should spend some time looking more deeply at these fruits. Being good is more than helping old ladies across the street and not kicking the cat if it helps become more like Jesus – over the next few weeks we’re going to take some time to look at a fruit of the spirit in more detail. We’re going to peel back the skin of a fruit each week to discover the depths beneath. We’re going to let Jesus and the Spirit help us to define what it means – not the world we live in. We need to peel back the skin of the world we live in so we can understand what influences our thoughts and behaviour. And then we have to bring the two together.
Youtube clip – ‘How to be happy – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1YAzAu3Ut6c
Britain is less happy than in the 1950s – despite the fact that we are three times richer.
The proportion of people saying they are “very happy” has fallen from 52% in 1957 to just 36% today.
The opinion poll by GfK NOP for The Happiness Formula series on BBC Two provides the first evidence that Britain’s happiness levels are declining – a trend already well documented in the United States.
Polling data from Gallup throughout the 1950s shows happiness levels above what they are today, suggesting that our extra wealth has not brought extra well-being.
It could even be making matters worse.
The British experience mirrors data from America, where social scientists have seen levels of life satisfaction gradually decline over the last quarter of a century.
In the early 1970s, 34% of those interviewed in the General Social Survey described themselves as “very happy”.
By the late 1990s, the figure was 30% – a small but statistically significant drop.
The story of wealth failing to translate into extra happiness is the story of the Western world.
In almost every developed country, happiness levels have remained largely static over the past 50 years – despite huge increases in income.
What the happiness research suggests is that once average incomes reach about £10,000 a year, extra money does not make a country any happier.
Should politicians try to make us happier?
In our opinion poll we asked whether the government’s prime objective should be the “greatest happiness” or the “greatest wealth”.
A remarkable 81% wanted happiness as the goal. Only 13% wanted greatest wealth.
I’m not sure I see it as the Government’s job is to make us happy. Is happiness the right pursuit for us? Isn’t that just a selfish aim? Or is it OK if we want others to be happy too? But what about the old mantra – you can’t please all the people all of the time? Is it possible for us all to be happy? What makes me happy might make you unhappy?
So here’s a chance for us to reflect on the world we live in and to see how it motivates and influences.
How do you see being happy? What does it mean to you?
Is happiness the same as pleasure?
But what is it that lasts? More than a fleeting feeling, something that can take the ups and downs that life throws at us. What is it that can ebb and flow as our life circumstances change.
The one remaining factor each time when we think about it – is relationships. Once we have our basic needs of food, warmth and shelter being connected with people is our next most basic need.
Our world doesn’t always help us with this – the more stuff we need to get the less time we have to spend on relationships, the less time we spend the more our relationships don’t offer us the same depth of joy so we buy more stuff to fill the gap. The more stuff we have the less time we have for others And the more our neighbour has the more we think we need and so it goes on!
Our connectedness with other people is what ultimately gives us a sense of value and our place in the world. This should come as no surprise to us really. I believe that as humans we are made in the image of God and God in the Christian faith is a God of relationships – the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. To be more like Jesus is to be in relationship both with God but also with each other.
The fruit of the spirit is joy. So what can we take from these reflections on happiness and joy? Is joy the same as happiness?
Joy is agitated happiness – shook up, fizzing, sometimes messy, energetic, lively Contentment is unagitated happiness – calm, deep, unshakeable
Ultimately as a Christian I believe joy is about hope, that things will be better, and that takes faith and hard work. The world we live in is working towards a time when all things will be put right. The bible promises that there will be a time when there is no more crying, death, suffering or pain.
So here are some thoughts for us to ponder this week.
- Take a long term view, happiness is more than a fleeting pleasure
- Happiness is good for you; don’t be ashamed to pursue it
- Relationships are central to happiness, stay connected
- Be active and engaged, throw yourself into meaningful pursuits
- Look outwards, not inwards, focus your attention on other people and the world around you
- Love unconditionally
- Let children play