“But, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.” (Galatians 5:22-23)
Our passage today begins with the word “but”. Some versions even translate the phrase in contrast. It’s a conjunction that is contrasting what came previously with what is to follow. Previously, Paul describes some pretty wicked, disgusting things. Paul has been discussing the difference between living life by the Spirit and living life by the flesh. We’ve been set free in Christ. When we accepted Christ, when we entered the waters of Baptism, and prayed for forgiveness and new life, we experienced freedom. We are no longer controlled by a way of life that tries to prove who we are, that is consumed with meeting our own desires, or that is about keeping all the rules. We have been set free to experience all that God has for us to enjoy.
But for some reason, even though we have freedom we sometimes revert to this old life of the flesh. Now the works of the flesh are obvious (fornication, impurity, drunkenness, jealousy, anger, and envy, just to name a few). If these traits describe you then the flesh may still be controlling you. If you find yourself envious of what other people have (I wish I had that car, I wish I had that house, I wish I had that talent) then you may be controlled by the flesh. If you find yourself angry a lot, always yelling at other drivers on the road or getting upset with the barista at the coffee shop, you may be controlled by the flesh. If you are always getting in fights or arguments with others on social media, or always tweeting about how bad service was at a restaurant you visited, these are all signs that the works of the flesh are still controlling you. You may be claiming Christ, but Christ is not changing your life.
By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These are the character traits that should describe us as Christians. This is how the Spirit of God is trying to transform our lives.
The Holy Spirit is trying to make us more loving, give us more joy, make us more patient….Everyday we should be becoming a little more like this list; more loving, more joyful, more gentle, and more faithful.
Christians should be more loving than anyone else in the world. We should be more willing to love than anyone else. And remember what Jesus says, it’s easy to love those who are just like us; what is difficult is learning to love those who are different from us. Those that hold different religious views. Those that hold different political views. Those that even hold different views on marriage, or abortion, or war. That doesn’t mean we have to agree with them, but we are called to love them. This call to love means we seek their best interest, and help them become all God created them to be.
Christians should be more patient than anyone else in the world. We should be more patient as we are driving down the road and the person in front of us is driving too slow. We should be more patient and understanding as it takes longer than normal for our food to come at the restaurant. We should be more patient when the help desk we are speaking with on the phone can’t seem to quite understand the problem we are having.
The same is true for all of the fruits of the Spirit. Our lives should be characterized by the fruits of the Spirit. These traits should be our defining characteristic.
Sometimes it’s so easy to focus on what we shouldn’t do. Don’t be angry. Don’t be involved in sexual sin. Don’t get drunk. It’s easy to focus on what we’re not supposed to do. But perhaps the greater motivator is to focus on what we are to become in Christ Jesus. We are to become more loving, more patient, and more kind. This is who we are becoming. This is our goal for maturity.
Perhaps the important question then is, what exactly do we look like?
I pray the Spirit will be active in our lives and transform us in such a way that others look at us and see a big bowl of fruit; lives characterized by the fruit of the Spirit.