Jesus was drawn to the poor, the lame, the blind, the rejected of society, and the non-Jews like the Roman Centurion and the Samaritan. He spent time with the Pharisees and Scribes, the elite of the Jews. He was interested in what they wanted. If someone asked for healing for themselves or their servant or child, he healed them. He gave them what they most needed, or what they asked for. He exemplified the fruit of the Spirit.
Paul writes in Galatians 5 listing the things that will keep us out of the kingdom of God: “sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery, idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy, drunkenness, orgies and the like.” [v. 19-20]
He continues: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law…Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” [v. 23-25] We keep in step with Jesus if we treat people as He did.
If we are good, kind and gentle, we are serving other people, we are following Jesus. If we exercise self-control, we are putting their needs ahead of ours., knowing full well that the Lord is taking care of ours. If we are patient or forbearing, we are engaging with them so as to understand why they are the way they are and, perhaps, encouraging them to be truer to themselves.
If we are at peace, we are at war with no one. If we are loving, we embrace everyone, no matter how they are or who they are. If we are filled with joy, we communicate it to all we meet. If we are faithful, we are always responding to the Christ within the other person, not putting our own judgments or expectations on the other.
And if we put all these qualities together, we are loving, we are love-in-action. We, ourselves, are like Jesus in how he was with people.
I think the worst lapses in our understanding of the fruit of the Spirit stem from not accepting who we are and then projecting our discontent with ourselves onto those we meet who do not meet “our” standards. But in judging and seeing everyone else through our own cloudy lenses, we are certainly not seeing them with God’s eyes, we’re not asking to hear their stories of how they became who they are today. We’re not seeing Christ in them. We’re assessing them with our expectations! We’re projecting our notions of perfection on them, which we don’t even meet! We dislike how much they are like ourselves! By their own existence they hold up a mirror to us showing us where we, too, fall short of a standard of perfection that is not even God’s, but what we project God’s standards to be.
I’ve written before about Jesus’ saying, “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.”[Matthew 5:48] The Greek word that is translated perfect is teleios, means perfect in the sense of wholeness or completeness. [Goodrick & Kohlenberger, Zondervan NIV Exhaustive Concordance, 2nd Edition, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids MI, 1999, p. 1596, Stong’s #5455] This whole-person perfection reflects what Jesus declared in the Two Great Commandments: to love God with your heart, soul, mind and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself. We are to bring our whole selves, warts and all, before God in love; this is the wholeness or completeness that is required. The Second of the Two Great Commands reflects that the proof of our love of God lies in how we treat ourselves and others.
If we’re honest with ourselves, we know when we are not loving, when there is anger or fear or impatience in our hearts and minds, when we envy what someone else has, when we lie or shade the truth, regardless of what image we put on for the world,. If we’re honest with ourselves and God, we know when we fall short of the mark, the Hebrew meaning of the word translated, “sin.” It is only in owning up to who we are, claiming that we do fall short of God’s standards, when we bring our whole selves before God with this failure on our hearts, that we are able to ask His help in healing our tendency to judge or envy or be impatient–whatever our sin is. When we put our sin on the altar before God and ask for healing from God, when we’re willing to face our deficiencies, we give God the opportunity to heal us, to transform who we are into the person He knows we are capable of being.
Only God can do this kind of healing. Only He can transform us. Only He can bring us to the person He created us to be. Only He can insure that we exemplify the fruit of the Spirit in everything we do. So let’s go for the healing! Let’s allow God into our imperfections! Let’s call out His Name and let Him do His work in us! Then we can grow into the fruit of the Spirit—it will be our method of dealing with everyone, even ourselves!
Remember that the fruit of any vine or plant or tree comes to ripeness after a long season of getting the right nutrients, the right amount of light, the requisite amount of water. The same is true of the fruit of the Spirit in us—with the right amount of healing and truth from the Gospels and the love of God, we can then ripen and grow into the fullness of who God created us to be. Then we are Love and Mercy and Compassion and Forgiveness in this fallen world!
Questions to ponder over the week: Am I love, peace, joy and patience? Am I good, kind and gentle? Am I faithful and self-controlled? What would I need to do to take a step closer to these ideal traits?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who are love, peace, joy and patience in this world. May we be good, kind and gentle with everyone, including ourselves. May we be faithful and self-controlled.
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