If anyone hinted, especially in his tightly-knit community, that people should be careful not to judge others, my father-in-law would counter with a wry grin, "OK, but there's nothing to stop us from being fruit inspectors!"
He knew his Bible well, and left us in no doubt that he was referring to the observation of Jesus Christ on humankind "Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?... A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit" (Matt. 7:16, 18).
This scripture makes it clear that we will bear the type of fruit consistent with our nature. It suggests that we should be able to expect growth and good fruit from those who follow the teachings of Christ and live a spiritual life.
One such follower explained that the varied fruits of the Spirit include love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance (see Gal. 5:22,23). And my father-in-law used to point out that it's hard to express one of these qualities without expressing at least some of the others. They interact with and reinforce one another.
Mary Baker Eddy, who established this newspaper, wrote, "If our hopes and affections are spiritual, they come from above, not from beneath, and they bear as of old the fruits of the Spirit" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 451).
These "hopes" and "affections" relate to the identity of each one of us as children of God, in which we are "in a degree as perfect as the Mind that forms" us (Science and Health, pg. 337). They give evidence of a spiritual identity that is the work of the divine Mind. And they are fulfilled by what the Apostle Peter called "the wonderfully varied grace of God" (1 Pet. 4:11, "The New Testament in Modern English," by J.B. Phillips.
With hindsight, I realize that my father-in-law expected to find evidence of the fruit of the Spirit in others, and spent much of his spare time showing others how to cultivate and care for what he called their "fruit-trees." People welcomed his input. He was deeply loved not only by his family but by young people, his next-door neighbors, fellow factory-workers, and by the many church communities of different denominations where he was a soloist and sometimes a speaker.
He made it a rule not to judge others. He felt it was not so much a question of judgment as of evaluation in order to know oneself better and help others to grow.
One of the people he helped in this way was a man on his shift at the factory whose violent temper made it impossible for others to work with him. In desperation, the supervisor assigned this man to the machine run by my father-in-law. As a result of my father-in-law's prayers and the example he set on the job, the other man was soon able to work effectively and happily with the rest of the team.
I learned from my father-in-law that the fruit inspection - introspection, if you like - begins with us. We can never examine our own lives too often for evidence of the ripening of the fruit - of the Christ at work there. This is expressed in the example we set for our children, and in the way we love our spouses, fellow-workers, people on the street, and others.
Jesus called especially for evidence of the fruit of love when he said: "... as I have loved you, ... love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another" (John 13:34, 35).
The main point about my father-in-law was that his was a life well-lived and unselfishly shared with others. In truth, he was far too busy loving and helping others to be critical of anyone. You could say he wasn't so much a fruit inspector as he was a highly successful fruit producer!
Every tree that bringeth not forth
good fruit is hewn down, and cast
into the fire. Wherefore by their
fruits ye shall know them.
Matthew 7:19, 20
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society