Before I went off topic last week, we had been talking about Galatians 5 and some of the conversation points in there. This week, I hope to finish off this section of the Bible and leave you with some food for thought.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”
So, as we did with the works of the flesh, let’s talk about some of the specific fruits of the Spirit.
Love: I’d say this is everyone’s favorite fruit to discuss. Why wouldn’t it be? Love is the topic of so much of the media that surrounds us. We often toss around the word to describe our opinions of a favorite movie or to express feelings we have for someone else. We loved to be loved and to love! But what even is love?
The word in Greek used here is agapē. Agapē is the highest form of love. (I’m not going to get into that, but you can read more about it here). In this instance, it is translated to the word love, but throughout the Bible, we see that agapē is often translated to charity. We could get into a whole discussion about what charity is, but at the core of charity is doing something for someone else.
The implication for this is that love isn’t just something we feel for someone but also, and more of, serving and caring for other people. If you love your favorite sports team, you’re going to do things for it (going to games, wearing jerseys, etc). If you love somebody, you’re going to do something for them. Loving is doing.
Joy: Before we dive into this one, let’s talk about the setting. Paul is living as a Christ-Follower in a time where it’s not easy to be one. He’s going through persecution and not the, “My friends think I’m wasting my time because I go to church once a week,” but more of a, “I hope no one crucifies me today.”
So it’s ironic that Paul is telling these believers to be joyful when, in reality, it’s hard! It’s hard even today without that type of persecution.Yet joy, like love, isn’t to be taken at face value. I think John Piper put it well when he wrote, “Christian joy is a good feeling in the soul, produced by the Holy Spirit, as he causes us to see the beauty of Christ in the Word and in the world.” So it’s not just being happy. It’s about being content because of what the Spirit reveals to us.
Gentleness: For our male readers (all 3 of you), I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Gentleness? Pssht, that’s for the ladies. I’m a man! I like football, monster trucks, Braveheart, building stuff, and Bald Eagles. I have no time for that weak-sauce gentleness stuff.”
But, no, it’s for guys as well. I think we often mistakenly take gentleness as another word for weak. It’s not being weak; it’s being calm. If someone hits you, do you a think a good response from a Follower of Christ would be to pull out your Glock 43 and shoot them? I hope not! I believe meekness shows the world that we don’t get angry quickly or respond in an unmerciful way. The Creator shows us mercy everyday. There’s no reason we shouldn’t do the same.
Let’s move on to verse 24 where Paul writes, “And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” This verse powerfully portrays where Followers of Christ have left their former lives; however, it makes us wonder why, if we have crucified our former lives, do we still sin?
One of my best friends is named Luke. Luke is a pretty outdoorsy guy who likes working on cars and robots, playing tennis, and other things I don’t understand. (I understand the outdoorsy part though). Now, if I were talking to Luke, and he was mad at me, hadn’t played tennis in a month, had not worked on a car in ages, said that robots were dumb, and had sat inside all day, would I doubt that my friend was still Luke? Would I say to him that he isn’t Luke anymore and needed to change his name? No, because he was just saying and doing things that he doesn’t usually do. I would probably just assume he’s having a bad day. It’s outside of his character.
When Followers sin or do something outside the character of Christ, it’s not because we are different people. We’re doing something that is outside of our true passions and desires. What we constantly do over time shows our true character, and a mistake is not a character.
After verse 24, Paul tells us to follow the Spirit because we live by the Spirit. As Christ-Followers, we cannot grow, show others Christ, or do anything with eternal meaning if we are not in step with the Spirit.
Often we think that if someone sins a lot then they are probably not Followers. However, I don’t think that’s a fair assessment of understanding where we are with God. I think a better way to judge ourselves is to ask what fruits we are bearing. If they are none, then we need to ask why. If there are some, we need to figure out how to bear the others. And if we think we are already bearing them all, then we need to see and learn how to grow those attributes better.
Next week, we’ll be moving on to another topic.
Cover Photo: SAphotography