Recently, I heard a pastor deliver a message in which he expounded on the need for Christians to bear fruit. He then went on to look at Galatians 5, stating that was the only place in the NT that really discussed fruit, (sorry, wrong). He deduced that the lists in that text reveal that fruit in the NT deals with character issues, (again, not so correct). Now, I don't want to be too hard on this person. This is the kind of stuff that is offered from pulpits in many, many evangelical churches. It's about me and Jesus and how I treat my wife, kids, and members of my church group.
But, I think that there is a little more to bearing fruit than simply thinking the right things and behaving in a particular manner. There is the idea of service to those outside of our own groups. Caring for all who are poor, homeless, hungry, sick, blind, lame, unemployed, orphans...and the list goes on. John the baptizer told the crowds who came to him to produce fruit in keeping with repentance. He then explained what that was; "The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same." To the tax collectors he said, ""Don't collect any more than you are required to." Even to the soldiers he exhorted them, "Don't extort money and don't accuse people falsely--be content with your pay."
Jesus stated in Mat. 7 that folks would recognize false prophets by their fruit. He then showed what he meant: "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of
heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." To make it clear what he was not talking about, he added, "Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in
your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?'" It seems that the religious stuff isn't the kind of fruit that we need to be concerned with. There were proper things to do, maybe like the whole of the Sermon on the Mount that preceded this statement.
Even Paul got it right. Colossians 1:10 states, "And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord
and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work,
growing in the knowledge of God." In every good work? Yes! Fruit bearing is being "doers of the word." not simply listening or giving lip service. Ok, it also involves good character. But, it's not limited to that. In fact, I think that good works will necessarily come out of a people of good character. The converse is also true. The verses following Col. 1:10 explain that endurance and patience, (and good character?), will result from doing good works. If we wait for character to develop on its own, good works may never happen.