The Fruit of the Spirit: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Gentleness, Faithfulness, and Self-Control (Galatians 5:22). These things are the evidence given to the world of Christ’s changing work in our life. Or, at least, they should be.
I’ve spent the last year+ fairly quiet on social media. I’ll comment here and there with a joke or brief thought, or trying to offer some form of encouragement (probably failing far more often then I realize), mainly reserving my interactions to likes, etc. In the year and a half since I last wrote here, a few things have happened, of which you may or may not have taken notice of on social media, news outlets, etc. To say my heart has been grieved is a woeful understatement, but I felt it was not the time to speak. Perhaps I am dreadfully late to raise my voice, and my failure to speak will be a part of my own sin for which I must repent. But perhaps, maybe, in my prayers and heart moments, the Holy Spirit has been working in my life and calling me to keep my mouth (and thumbs) quiet. After all, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” (James 1:19-20). Using this scripture as a baseline, it’s probably best that I haven’t said much.
Because, damn it, I am angry.
I am angry that we as a society and the Church are still struggling with the same issues that grieved me four years ago. I am angry that our politics are still fear and hate-driven. And I am especially angry at the response of many of those whom I call brothers and sisters in Christ at the state of our current world.
Is our faith so small? Do we sing of an all-powerful God on Sunday morning and fearfully worship the idol of our circumstances on Monday? In whom is our provision, the God of All Creation or in our economy? Do we really believe that God could use Donald Trump to His purposes but not Joe Biden? In all these things, what are you so damned scared of?
I see so many Christ believers — people that I know and love, not nameless faces on an empty Facebook sea — responding to all these things with bitterness, anger, fear, and even hate. From the hearts and mouths of so many I love, I have been unable to see that Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Gentleness, Faithfulness, and Self-Control. And as much as it makes me angry to see, it breaks my heart even more.
Where there should be Love, I have seen contempt, bitterness, and spite.
Where there should be Joy, I have seen fear and anger.
Where there should be Peace, I have seen calls for violence.
Where there should be Patience, I have seen demand for instant gratification.
Where there should be Kindness, I have seen pride.
Where there should be Goodness, I have seen a willingness to ignore the needs of others.
Where there should be Gentleness, I have seen brash, harsh words.
Where there should be Faithfulness, I have seen idolatry.
Where there should be Self-Control, I have seen a giving over to the flesh and impulse.
I mourn, not only because I see so many who have been in Christ for so long lacking exhibition of these evidences of the Holy Spirit growing and shaping them, but also because they are missing out of the blessings of God that pour from the harvest of those Fruit.
I get it. It sucks. It’s difficult. It’s intimidating. It’s scary.
~Consider it pure Joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking in anything. (James 1:2-4)
~I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us … And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:18, 28)
~Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? (Matthew 6:25-27)
~I will plant her for myself in the land; I will show my love to the one I called, “Not my loved one.” I will say to those called, “Not my people,” “You are my people.;” and they will say, “You are my God.” (Hosea 2:23)
~”Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.” (Matthew 26:52)
~Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:1-2)
~Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others … Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” (Philippians 2:3-4, 14-15)
~Then he said to them all; “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.” (Luke 9:23-24)
When Christ asks us to take up our cross and follow Him, how are we to expect that that journey will lead anywhere other than suffering? By it’s very design, the cross is an instrument of death. In choosing Christ, we have willingly given up our own life, our own safety, and our own comfort for the good and goals of the Kingdom. If our life in Christ was to be comfortable, for what need would we have the Holy Spirit, called Comforter? It is He who gives us the strength to stand in times of weakness, to smile in times of sorrow, and love in times of fear.
Can you find comfort in the uncomfortable, or are you fighting to preserve an idolatrous sense of security in our own workings, or the economy, or government?
There is a time for lament, and for celebration (Ecclesiastes 3). But are we fighting and striving for what we perceive are the promises of God? Do we not learn from Abraham that it is by the faithfulness of God, and not our own actions and attempts, that the promises of God are fulfilled?
Our actions in times like these reveal what we truly believe about God. Do we believe that He is who He says He is? That He can and will do all that He has promised? Is He enough and all that we need? Or have we crafted an image of Him in our own abilities and flaws?
I pray that we will reflect upon this question: Who is God? And I pray that as we submit ourselves to Him more and more that we will see a new growth of the Fruit of the Spirit.
I believe in the promises of God. I desperately cling to them daily. It’s the only way I can experience true Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Gentleness, Faithfulness, and Self-Control. Sometimes I fail at showing them. But it is only the Spirit, and not my circumstances, finances, or any part of the world around me that sustains me and encourages me. Can you say the same?
For such a time as this.