Fruit of the Spirit
Paul described the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-3: peace, joy, love, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Fruit is the end product of a long growing season, the product the plant or tree offers the world. That this “fruit” comes from the Spirit of God means that it is given to us, that we grow into the fruit of the Spirit by serving and loving and worshiping God “in spirit and truth.” As we grow in our relationship to God, giving over more and more of ourselves to loving Him, we will experience the growth of these qualities in ourselves. They are not anything that we, by our own efforts, can attain, they are the gift of the Holy Spirit as He feels we are ready to express them in our lives.
Peace is not just the absence of war, it is so much more than that. It means we have put down our weapons, our anger, our resistance, our defensiveness, our judgments, our fears. It means that we have settled deeply in our truest selves, in our souls where we commune with God all day long. It means that we are being who we were created to be and using our talents and gifts and the lessons we have learned so far in this lifetime for the service of God and others. We are living in the kingdom of God where we are all equals, each with different gifts and purposes, but all serving God as each of us is called. We are living in this true community which supports and challenges and loves each other. Nothing that happens can destroy our peace, because we know God.
Joy comes from a deep well within us, a bubbling up of unrestrained happiness, when we are doing exactly what we were created to do, when we are truly helping others.
Love, that is, agape love, is an unstoppable outpouring of positive help, support, “goodwill, benevolence and willful delight in the object of love…it involves faithfulness, commitment and an act of the will…the love that is of and from God whose very nature is love.” God’s love flows into us and out of us to others. It cannot be contained or limited.
Patience is above all the willingness to wait for the right timing, for God’s timing, to do something. It involves surrendering our will to God’s will and to his timing. It takes an acknowledgement that we don’t know everything, we can’t see all the moving parts in a person or an action. And so, we wait patiently for God’s signal that the time is right.
Goodness comes from an alignment with the spirit of the law, of the laws of God. It means that God is first in our lives and that what we do aligns with His will. That we are above all loving our neighbor, treating him exactly as we would want to be treated. That we affirm him or her as a child of God. That we are not fighting them or their ways. That we love who they are. Goodness is the opposite of selfishness, spite and cruelty. It is an “uprightness of heart and life.”
Kindness is an outpouring of goodwill towards another. It is love. It is other-serving, not self-serving. It comes without barbs and judgment and any negativity.
Faithfulness means to stay true, in this case to God and to His ways, to commit ourselves to loving Him with all of ourselves and to loving our neighbor as ourselves. Faithfulness is day-in and day-out: “reliable, steadfast and unwavering.” Thus we display our own faithfulness to God, and then can know God’s faithfulness, too.
Gentleness “involves humility and thankfulness toward God, and polite, restrained behavior toward others. The opposites of gentleness are anger, a desire for revenge, and self-aggrandizement.” Gentleness is meekness, humility, a dependency not on ourselves, but on God to know what we are to do and say.
Self-control is “the ability to control oneself. It involves moderation, constraint, and the ability to say ‘no’ to our baser desires and fleshly lusts.” It is not the rigid self-control of following the letter of the law, but rather the ability to set aside our own desires in favor of giving to someone else. It requires a person to really know themselves and their own purpose as the context for all of their actions. And to know that our own needs will always be met by God.
When we are able to do everything out of love, we are at peace, joyful, loving, patient, good, kind, faithful, gentle and self-controlled. Isn’t this the definition of love? I think it is.
Questions to ponder over the week: Am I seeing/sensing the growth of these qualities within me? How can I help their adoption in me? Am I hanging on to anything that would block the growth of these fine attributes?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who are at peace, who can love, experience lots of joy, who are patient, good, kind, faithful and gentle and who exercise self-control.
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 John 4:24