Fruit of the Spirit
In a separate section of this site we examined the idea of Spiritual gifts; those gifts which God gives in order to empower us to carry out the tasks that are necessary for the church to truly be the body of Christ. We discovered that every person has at least one spiritual gift and that no one has them all. While this may seem a bit unfair that some people have more gifts than others we need to remember two things. First all gifts are given for the glory of God and the good of the church…not the gain of the individual. Second where the Holy Spirit is at work people are changed and the fruit of the Spirit is produced in everyone who believes.
The Apostle Paul in his letter to the churches in Galatia (an area in what we now call Turkey) offers a contrast between living by the “flesh” and the “spirit.” Living in the flesh refers to the human tendency to take our human attributes (sexuality, emotions, etc.) and use them in destructive ways. Living by the Spirit means allowing God to help us take those same attributes and use them in appropriate and life giving ways. By allowing the Spirit control, Paul argues, positive outcomes will be produced; or as he calls them, the fruit of the Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:22-25)
Note that Paul speaks of the fruit of the Spirit and not the fruits. What he is telling us is that unlike the gifts of the Spirit which are variously distributed, the fruit of the Spirit comes as a complete package. In other words if we allow the Spirit to play an active role in our lives then the fruit, in all of its manifestations will be evident in our thoughts, words and deeds. Let’s take a look then at the manifestations of the fruit of the Spirit.
Love – love is the only fruit of the Spirit which is also a gift of the Spirit. Love as referred to here is “agape” love; meaning sacrificial or servant love which causes us to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Joy – joy is different from happiness. We live in a world which places much emphasis on happiness…but happiness is fleeting. It is based on what we have at the moment. It can come and go. Joy is constant. It is that sense of know that we are always loved and cherished by God; that we matter.
Peace – the Greek term here corresponds to the Hebrew word Shalom which means a sense of both inner and outer peace; that even when the world seems to be falling apart around us we do not have to fear because we know that in life and death we belong to God in Christ.
Forbearance – this term is often translated as patience. I believe that forbearance works better because the term means a willingness to stand fast in the face of difficult times. In a sense this is an active effort rather than a passive waiting and being patient.
Kindness – when we allow the Spirit to work it softens our hearts such that we can see and respond to the needs of others. We set aside any judgments and offer our assistance.
Goodness - this is a quality of being morally upright in all actions and decisions; that when an easier but less honorable course is offered, goodness requires us to choose the more difficult way.
Faithfulness – another way to understand this term is “commitment.” Faithfulness allows us to commit ourselves over the long term to following Jesus and living a life of faith.
Gentleness – this is similar to the meekness Jesus describes in the Beatitudes; meaning possessing the strength to maintain an even tempered, unpretentious and caring spirit.
Self-control – this is the ability to regulate one’s behavior in a Christ-like way the face of those persons and events that might otherwise cause us to lose control.