This is a question that I’ve given some thought to, but am yet to come up with an answer for.
As Christian parents (I’m not one, but they do say it takes a village to raise a child) it is our responsibility to raise our children with moral values and a fear of the Lord. Few would dispute that, but how far do we take it?
As a child, I learnt all about the fruits of the Spirit. There were diagrams and songs and colouring in sheets; juicy apples and pears and bananas all with a word attached: love, joy, peace…
These were all character traits that we knew we were to cultivate, but as an adult I can’t help wondering… have we missed the point?
Are fruits of the Spirit things that can be taught, or are they traits that grow in us purely as a result of the Spirit?
If we teach our children to exhibit these things, are we wisely training them in the way they should go, or are we creating little people who know how to look good on the outside, but whose hearts have not been changed?
Is it our moral responsibility to reward them for ‘Spirit filled’ behaviour and discipline them for ‘fleshly behaviour,’ or should we be focusing on teaching them the Gospel and letting the Spirit grow this fruit?
I’m really not sure. What are your thoughts?
Only God can change the heart. I look at my responsibility as the parent as filling them up. I fill my children up with the Word and try to minimize the world’s teaching in their little hearts. I fill them with love, grace, and gentle correction. I encourage honesty and a questioning heart so they won’t have to fake it.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts Jenny. That’s a beautiful way of putting it 🙂
I struggle with this a lot! Our biggest aim is to encourage our children to have a relationship with Christ. My husband worries particularly about any forcing of behaviour when it comes to prayer and fruits of the spirit. It is His work in us and our acceptance of Jesus death on the cross to atone for us that is important. In short I’m still figuring it out but feel that I don’t want to encourage a works based faith.
Yeah it’s hard hey. I can imagine that for you parents it’s so hard to balance not encouraging a works based faith, but still teaching Children positive behaviour. You’re right, the Gospel must always be the cornerstone!
Interesting question… I would think that simply teaching kids how to act Godly or be kind is not neccessarily a definite ‘fruit of the spirit,’ I was raised in a non-Christian home but was raised with ‘Christian values’ that my parents had been taught from Christian grandparents. I’m not saying that I had the qualities of a Christian kid as a child, however even non-Christian kids can be raised ‘well’, just not when it comes to treating God as Lord. In the same way, I suppose parents who go to church but aren’t committed to God could surely know how to raise their kids as Christian kids i a kind of box ticking type excercise. Either way, if I wasn’t raised a Christian, but now am, could any outworking of the Spirit be attributed to anyone except the spirit?
My next thought follows that people do see kids raised in Christian families who appear totally Christian in a church setting and have been raised to ‘do all the right things’ but eventually fall away from God, and some would not ever return. If we know that ” … he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Phi 1:6) the way I understand that would be that the kid would not have had the Holy Spirit, so their behaviour could not be attributed to the fruits of the Spirit (although I’m happy to be challenged on the interpretation of that).
However, suppose someone is lovingly instructed by all their friends and family and matures and flourishes as a devout follower and lover of God, and the fruit of the spirits work can be clearly seen by all who see them. I think it would be foolish to say that they were only instructed by earthly teachers to have attained such maturity, and they themselves would most likely attribute their development in character to God placing those people around them and the Spirit working in their own lives as the main causes.
The next thing I wonder is would you encourage other people (non kids) such as your church friends to “Grow in the fruits of the Spirit?” Surely just regular encouraging to continue have faith in God, to study his word and follow him where he leads you (as I understand it) would result in fruits of the spirit (although I have nothing to back that up). Of course it’s very encouraging to see the effects the Spirit has in peoples lives but I’m not sure how I feel about encouraging them to essentially ‘be given’ something from God. I don’t think that sort of idea makes a lot of sense as I am personally not aware of any promise God has made that we can, through certain elements of faith, expect some kind of proportional increase in fruits or gifts, etc. (again, please tell me if you know of something).
My super long winded suggested answer would then be that:
-Fruits of the spirit, like spiritual gifts, are given by God, and our encouraging won’t help that
-Have faith in God (we have lots of reasons, and I think the transformation by the Spirit is definitely exciting but perhaps not the most important reason)
-Be excited and thank God if you do see an outworking of the Spirit in anyones life
-Be prepared and be thankful you may be used by God in helping others
-Raise children with love and fear of the Lord (but don’t expect that your works and efforts are somehow guaranteed to be matched by Gods spirit acting proportionally with your efforts)
Thanks for reading and commenting. I think you have some really valid points. I guess at the end of the day, works that do not come as a result of the Spirit are only outward, and while they may have positive outcomes, they don’t have eternal significance. Absolutely teaching our kids the Gospel is key!
Wise thoughts. Perhaps its the difference between showing a child how to draw, say, an apple and having him plant an apple seed. It is the work of the Spirit to produce spiritual fruit. These things can indeed by copied by the flesh, but they cannot be reproduced by the flesh. Paul wrote to Timothy that “from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus,” 2 Timothy 3:15. We should teach our children as much of the Scripture as possible, not just those verses we think of as “Gospel.” Who knows what the Spirit might be pleased to use? I’ve heard of a man led to faith by considering Genesis 5 and the repetition of “and he died.” This man began to consider that he, too, must die and the Spirit used that to lead him onto the way of salvation.
Interesting analogy! Thanks for taking the time to read and comment with your thoughts!
And you’re right, the Spirit will do as He pleases!
It was not until I got older that I fully understood Proverbs 22:6 – Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
There was a lot of loss and drama when I was a child. If there was fruit within me it got replaced by unexpected stuff happening when I was too young to understand. Anger, hate, bitterness, distrust became a force field around my heart replacing all that was good. It was left unchecked, until later in life painfully when I had no where to go. Until I chose Jesus.
I believe we tell our children right from wrong without fully explaining why so that they understand its not just because We say so but based on our own experiences to know better.
We should teach them self worth and provide a healthy self esteem so that as life happens, they develop healthy emotions within and not look for it outside of themselves.
As we get older and when we surrender to the Holy Spirit, he assists in the development and growth, to include healing to produce more fruit within us. This is a life long process. I thank God that spiritual fruit resides with me to share a testimony with others.
I apologize my thoughts were so lengthy.
Thanks and blessings (smile)
Hi Ann, and thanks for your thoughts! I imagine that verse can be a challenging one for all parents!
Hi Sarah! Here’s what I’m thinking…
It’s ‘fruit’, singular, so the 9 traits are probably not an exhaustive list (and the sin-list isn’t either). So we’re not talking about a list of things we can tick off, or pick ‘n’ mix, but one way of life with a bunch of identity markers.
Each of those 9 things is first and foremost about relating to others. As Paul says in the same place, the law is really about living as a neighbour.
This is about teaching others to love, to walk in the way of Jesus, which is the way of the Spirit. A way of life is something that can be caught and taught (deny yourself, take up your cross, follow me…).
So I guess the question isn’t ‘Should we?’ so much as ‘In what way should we?’ As to what that might involve, I reckon this one’s a great resource for exploring further: http://www.9aday.org.uk/
Thanks for your thoughts Arthur. I’ve heard it said that the ‘fruits’ list is actually singular. Interesting, because it seems to make so much more sense as a plural!
a loving Christian parent can teach their child to display the fruits of the Spirit as a matter of course & as part of their training up a child in the way they should go, a result of good parenting…they only become the fruits of the Spirit when the child has a relationship with Christ and is filled with the Spirit – before that they are the out-workings of good parenting/the child’s choices and afterwards they are the results of a Spirit filled life with the power that comes from walking in the Spirit
Thanks for your comments Sue! I think they are very wise, and deal with both sides of the dilemma!
It’s a good question. I think sometimes in Christianity we put the cart before the horse and if something isn’t working, we fix the symptoms instead of the root cause. If my life doesn’t show the fruit of the spirit, then I probably shouldn’t put all my focus on generating that fruit on my own, but ask myself why I’m not producing that fruit. If I don’t have love for my brother or sister (1 John 4:20), rather than say, “I’ll try to love them more,” I should say, “What am I missing in my relationship with God, such that it’s so hard to love others?”
In John 15:5 Jesus said that if you abide in him and he in you, you will bear much fruit. If you’re not bearing fruit, either Jesus was wrong, or you’re somehow not abiding in him.
With raising children it’s hard because you want to train them in good behaviour, but ultimately, like others have said, it’s a heart issue. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. But a horse that’s been led to water will more likely drink when the time comes, than one that has no idea where the water is.
Thanks for commenting Michael… You’ve hit the root of my question… are we looking at symptoms or cause? But then we are powerless to change a child’s heart, so I guess we do what we can to guide them in what is right.
A few random thoughts.
We can’t expect the HS to let us get away with being lazy parents.
Our children are going to learn far more from what we model than what we say.
The fruits are a response to God’s love – something our children should first receive from their parents. The more loved they are (not spoilt!) the more they will copy the responses they have seen to being loved.
Hi Nate! Thanks for jumping on board here at sarsrose! Always great to have new people visit and follow my blog! That seems to be a common theme with this question… the importance of modeling, perhaps even more than teaching. Thanks for your comment!
I keep thinking that if kids weren’t taught the fruits, then adults might discover that they aren’t really ‘fruits’ but sociological influence. Maybe that’s why churches like childcare so much? Anybody want to consider and discuss that?