Different fruits and vegetables affect different people in different ways, depending on their tastes. And so it is with our personality and character. How we portray Christ to others often depends on the tastes of those in whose presence we are. And for this reason, it is important for every Christian to fine tune his personality and character in order to manifest, as Paul said, “the aroma of His knowledge through us in every place” (2 Co 2:14).
Our influence on others is as Paul continued in his letter to the Christians in Achaia, “To the one we are the aroma from death to death, and to the other the aroma from life to life” (2 Co 2:15). We thus work on how we present ourselves to others for a very important purpose: “For we are to God a sweet fragrance of Christ, in those who are being saved and in those who are perishing” (2 Co 2:16). It is our goal to present to others the sweet fragrance of Christ in order that others be attracted to Christ, and thus, come to life.
One of the purposes for our close relationship with one another in Christ is that we are offered the opportunity to check one another’s personality and character. The closer we become, the more our personalities are identified by one another. Assets are discovered, and detriments are discouraged. As disciples of Divinity we are relational in order that we can fine tune our personalities and characters for a better presentation of the radiant aroma of Christ to the world.
In our travels around the world, we have encountered hundreds of fruits and vegetables that often identify the personality and character of Christians. In a metaphorical application, some of the following fruits and vegetables may not be fully understood by every reader, simply because a particular reader may not have eaten the fruit or vegetable. Nevertheless, in the definition of the tastes of the selected fruit or vegetable, we hope to describe metaphorically a particular personality or character that we may have encountered or portray ourselves.
A. Breadfruit disciples:
Breadfruit is a fruit that originated in the South Pacific. Once discovered as a fruit that could be eaten, the tree was planted in many places of the world in order to provide food for slaves. When we were in the West Indies we ate breadfruit. When eaten straight from the tree, this fruit is so bland that it needs a great deal of help to be pleasing to the tastes. It is thus cooked in every possible way in order to make it palatable. It is simply a bland fruit that always needs help in order to make it acceptable.
There are some very bland disciples who need a lot of help with their personality. These are disciples who need to heed the words of the Holy Spirit: “Awake you who sleep and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light” (Ep 5:14).
There may be some who are bland simply because they have grown disheartened. These disciples need to listen to the Hebrew writer when he spoke in reference to the hardships of Jesus: “For consider Him who endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you not grow weary and faint in your minds” (Hb 12:3). And, “My son, do not despise the disciplining of the Lord, nor faint when you are rebuked by Him” (Hb 12:5).
If one feels that he needs help in order not to become weary and faint, then it may be that he has become dull of hearing the exhorting word of God that is able to build us up (At 20:32; Hb 5:11). If the word of God is able to build up our faith—and it is—then when our faith is not being built up, we must assume that we are not into the word as we should be (See Rm 10:17).
A good point to remember is what Paul wrote in Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” If one’s life is bland because he or she has become weary and fainthearted, then it is time to wake up and smell the coffee. All disciples go through times when life seems bland. It is not wrong to sometimes be down, but it is wrong to stay down. If we stay down, then one is not allowing Christ to strengthen him. The problem is not in what causes us to be bland, but our rejection of that which is able to build us up. When one becomes excited about the seed of the kingdom, the result is that he becomes excited about the spiritual needs of others. And when one is excited about the needs of others, he will become more excited about the Seed. Seed and need build one up in spiritual strength (See At 20:32).
B. Squash disciples:
There are numerous types of squash throughout the world. But there is one thing that is common with every squash in reference to being used as a food. Once cooked, every squash is squashed. The name of the food is appropriate. Squash is made to be squashed as a food, and thus in being squashed, it loses its identity. Unless one has identified the food before it was smashed into an eatable food, one would not know if it were squash, a pumpkin, a potato, or some root.
Some Christians lose their identity when “squashed” by the heat of persecution, or simply by a trying situation in which they find themselves. Such was the case with the disciples to whom the Hebrew writer gave instructions to stand strong in Christ. He wrote the following to these disciples who were on the verge of apostasy:
For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and brings forth herbs useful for those by whom it is dressed, receives blessing from God (Hb 6:7).
The point: We receive God’s blessing when we faithfully produce. However, there was a problem with these disciples. The recipients of this exhortation, who were being intimidated to return to the Sinai law, were in the process of losing their identity as Christians, and thus, their salvational blessing from God.
The writer continued, “But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned” (Hb 6:8). If these Christians were “squashed” by the “thorns and thistles” into apostasy, then they would eventually be burned. Therefore, they must “imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Hb 6:12). In other words, without faithfulness, there is no blessing of the promises.
This is critical in reference to our salvation, “for if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins” (Hb 10:26). Squash disciples, therefore, must be cautioned about losing their identity as Christians, and thus, their inheritance of the promises. They must not allow the world in which they live to weaken their identity as disciples of Divinity, and thus, rob them of their salvation.
One can lose his identity as a Christian if he follows after any faith that is not identified as true by the will of God (See Mt 7:21). One can lose his identity as a Christian if he becomes a friend of the world (Js 4:4). If one is squashed into the image of the world, then certainly he has lost his discipleship of Divinity, and subsequently, his eternal salvation.
C. Radish disciples:
The first bite of a radish is hot. It looks good on the outside because it is red. But when eaten, it is often too hot for some people to be eaten alone. It must be mixed with another food, possibly in a salad.
Some disciples are like this in their personality. They have a hot temper. They forget that their hot temper is too close to danger. But someone advised, “If you are patient in one moment of anger, you will escape a hundred days of sorrow.” One hot word will often cool a relationship.
The radish disciple is in need of patience. Solomon would admonish him with the words, “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who controls his spirit than he who takes a city” (Pv 16:32). “Therefore, my beloved brethren,” James exhorted, “let everyone be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath” (Js 1:19).
Radish disciples have one of the most difficult personalities to overcome. It is hard to overcome because they have usually been this way from their youth. Others have allowed them to get away with their outburst of anger. And now in an age of social media, their hot temper shows up as “online bullying.” They are very critical, and subsequently, they make heated remarks in response to something they read on someone’s timeline.
Hot tempered people are known for speaking (writing) before they think. They will make their critical statements on social media because they know that no one will be able to give them a face-to-face response with which they must deal personally. They become social media trolls who are in search of some innocent victim to vent their “radish personality.”
These are those disciples who have lost their aroma of Christ, and thus, people do not desire to be around them, lest something is said that sets them off. They are opinionated to the point that others are in fear of voicing their own opinions, lest the discussion digresses into debate. These are those disciples who need to heed the Holy Spirit’s advice to “let you speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt” (Cl 4:6).
A wise writer once wrote the following short story of a radish disciple:
Once upon a time there was a fellow who got very angry at something that was done to him in the church. So he said, “I’ll never go back to that church again. I’ll die and go to hell first.” And so he did.
D. Grapefruit disciples:
Ever just take a big bite of a grapefruit? It makes one cringe.
Some personalities are like this. When encountered, they make one cringe. Not only do grapefruit personalities cause others to cringe, they sometimes cringe themselves at the word of God when they learn something in their Bibles that conflicts with their behavior. Therefore, one must be very cautious around a grapefruit disciple, because if something is said or read that sets him off, then he brings tension into the discussion.
- Cringed by harsh words: Grapefruit people react with caustic statements, wherein the audience becomes shocked, stunned and quiet. The sad thing about the grapefruit disciple is that one day he eventually wakes up and finds himself alone. People are too frightened about even calling him on the telephone. His personality does not encourage people to gather around him for encouragement. By his speech he repels people. We might say that he is opposite to the personality of Barnabas who was the “son of encouragement” (At 4:36).
- Cringed by the word: Jeremiah once wrote a message from God to King Jehoiakim. The message was written on a scroll and read before the king. But when Jehoiakim heard the message, he reacted:
So it came to pass when Jehudi had read three or four columns, he [the king] cut it with a penknife and cast it into the fire that was on the hearth, until all the scroll was consumed in the fire that was on the hearth” (Jr 36:23).
Sometimes, grapefruit disciples are cringed by the word of God, and thus, react to the word in a similar manner as Jehoiakim. The Holy Spirit would say to those who negatively react to God’s word, “Do not quench the Spirit” (1 Th 5:19). “Do not despise prophecies” (1 Th 5:20).
If they continue on their course of life, grapefruit disciples eventually lose their identity as disciples of Divinity. They do so because they reject that which identifies one as a disciple. If the word of God is rejected, then that which is God’s instructional manual for discipleship can no longer be the guide of the one who poses to be following God. The disciple who despises the word of God, either through lack of study, or just plain rejection of the word, becomes a religionist. He becomes a wolf among the disciples because he does not know the word of God. It would be this person about whom Jesus was possibly thinking when He made the statement: “… because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of My mouth” (Rv 3:16).
E. Onion disciples:
The response of others when they come into contact with the personality of this disciple is obvious. The onion disciple makes you want to cry. This is the pessimist with pains, and to be sure, he will explain every pain in his life, whether in body or in his relationships with others. This disciple is as someone said of him: “The guy who feels bad when he feels good because he is afraid he will feel worse when he gets to feeling better.”
The onion disciple thinks that every day is “National Frown Day,” and thus he brings a dark cloud of sadness to those he encounters throughout the day. He is like the boy who was given grapes, but complained when he found that they had seeds.
In a hospital there were two patients lying in recovery from their illnesses. When one of the patients was asked how he was feeling, he responded, “I am better today.” When the other patient was asked how he felt, he responded, “I was worse yesterday.” Our personality is portrayed to others in how we respond to the circumstances in which we find ourselves. Our personality can be identified by how we would respond to rain. One person might respond, “This rain will make mud.” The other would say, “This rain will cause the crops to grow.” Our personality is sometimes revealed by what two men said when looking at a bush. One said, “This bush has thorns.” The other said, “This bush has a rose.” Our personality will determine the quality of our relationships with others.
Paul would say to the onion disciple, “Rejoice in the Lord always. And again I say, rejoice!” (Ph 4:4). We must not allow ourselves to respond in a negative manner to the environment in which we live. One person may be stung by a bee, but still call it a honey bee. But the onion disciple would call the bee a stinging bee. A disciple who is rejoicing always in the Lord will always say, “I am glad that I get to live for Jesus.” But the onion disciple is pessimistic. He would say, “I’m sorry that I must die.” Pessimism may creep out of us when we react to our environment. We might say, “I am glad that my social environment is not worse.” But then we might say, “I’m sorry that it is no better.”
The personality of the onion disciple is that his discipleship is mixed with too much negativism, whereas the life of the rejoicing disciple is mixed with just a little sadness that comes his way. Nevertheless, he continues to rejoice in the Lord. He has the personality about which James wrote, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the trying of your faith produces patience” (Js 1:2,3).
[Next lecture in series: April 28]