Digging in Deeper: Galatians 5:22-23

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The law is not against such things.” (CSB – Read the chapter)

The fruit of the Spirit. Even if you’re not a Jesus person you may have seen the phrase before on a piece of kitschy artwork in a store that tries to market to Jesus people. Even if you would consider yourself thoroughly secular in every regard, you have to at least admit it’s a pretty good list of attitudes or mindsets or character traits or whatever else you want to call them. 

If you’re a Jesus person, the odds are that you’ve heard of these. In fact, you haven’t just heard about them, you’ve heard all about them. You’ve heard sermons preached on the whole group together. You’ve heard sermons preached on them each individually. You’ve been through multi-week Bible studies on them. You may even have the whole list memorized (there are just nine of them, after all). 

I could go through the list, fruit by fruit, and give you definitions, but you probably already know them. Love is an intentional decision to see someone else become more fully who God designed them to be. Joy is a sense of delighted contentedness that transcends circumstances. Peace is experiencing the wholeness of God’s presence no matter the situation we’re in. Patience is operating on somebody else’s schedule. Kindness, which is stronger than mere niceness, is treating people on the basis of God’s opinion of them. Goodness is reflecting God’s character in your thoughts and actions and words. Gentleness is approaching other people and situations with the proper amount of strength. Faithfulness is a radical willingness to honor commitments. Self-control is the ability to say no to self for the sake of someone else. 

See, you already knew all of that. So why keep writing? Well, because I’m a writer and I can’t help it. Also, there’s something else here that is worth observing and which you may not have noticed before. Once we get through the actual list of fruits we usually check out. But Paul says one more thing here. What is it? 

Depending on your translation he says something along these lines: There’s no law against these things. That seems kind of odd, doesn’t it? 

In context it doesn’t. 

Paul has been talking about the Jesus follower’s relationship to the Law of Moses and the law generally. About the Law of Moses his basic point is that if you stay signed up to keep that, you can’t experience the life and grace Jesus offers. Once you follow Jesus you wind up doing much of what the Law commands anyway, but the reasoning for it is different. 

About the law generally, in the verses preceding this one, Paul notes that when we live apart from the righteously enabling help of the Spirit we wind up neck deep in a whole range of behaviors that have to be restrained by laws. It’s a pretty grisly list. It’s a list that if you pursue anything on it for long, you’ll soon have someone trying to stop you. 

But this list of spiritual fruit; this list of behaviors that come naturally in the life of someone who is filled with the Spirit? There’s no law against them. Any of them. Have you ever tried to do something and had someone working to stop you because they thought you were wrong to do it? That’s so frustrating, especially when we think we’re right. List this of things, though, if you do them, nobody’s going to try and stop you. 

Nobody’s going to try and stop you from being more loving. They’ll probably thank you for it. If you’re more self-controlled, you might get some ribbing from folks who aren’t, but they’ll really be looking up to you. If you’re kind and good in all your interactions, people will hail you as a hero. I think we can all agree that the world could use a few more people who are gentle and patient, right? 

Imagine with me for a minute if all of Jesus’ followers became widely known for living out of this list of things. What if everywhere we went people wanted us nearby even if they thought the things we believed were crazy? Imagine if secular people didn’t want to come to church with us, but they sure wanted their daughters to marry us because they knew we’d treat them well. What if employers didn’t want to hear about our Gospel, but they hired us as fast as they could find us because they knew we’d be the hardest, best, most trustworthy workers? I think we can all agree that our world would be a better place. How about we work together to make this potentiality a full-blown reality? Let’s get started.

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