The Fruit of the Spirit – Living a Spirit-filled life
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” -Galatians 5:22 (NIV)
Day 1: Freedom in Christ
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yolk of slavery.” - Galatians 5:1 (NIV)
In Galatians, Paul is writing to a church that he was instrumental in forming. He has been away from them for a while, and is has heard that they have been infiltrated by Judaizers who are telling them that they have to obey Jewish laws in order to be Christians. This adherence to Jewish law is represented and epitomized by circumcision, a ritual commanded by God in the Old Testament to set aside the Jews as God’s chosen people. Paul writes to remind them that they were saved through faith, not through the law, to remind them of their freedom in Christ, and to warn them not to become slaves to the law. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yolk of slavery.” (Gal 5:1) “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” (Gal 5:6)
These days Judaizers are few and far between. There are very few people insisting that Christians must be circumcised, or observe the Jewish holidays. But other forms of legalism have crept in. Other gatekeepers have emerged, insisting that there is more we must do than simply believing in Christ. Faith expressing itself through love, they say, is all well and good, as long as that love is authorized by the church. Circumcision has no value, they say, but if you don’t agree with our stance on women in leadership or gay marriage we expect you to leave our community and not cause any trouble on the way out.
Within the context of law vs. faith, in Gal 5:22, Paul gives a list of the fruit of the spirit, “against such things” he says, “there is no law.” There are other lists of virtues in the New Testament (Phil 4:8 and Col 3:12-15) but I have always loved the rhythm of this list. In the NIV translation the first set of three are one syllable each -- “love, joy, peace” -- the second set two syllables each – “patience, kindness, goodness” – and the third set three syllables – “faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” making them easy to memorize and to meditate on.
There are two ways we can use this list. The first is to look at ourselves, to see whether we are producing these fruit and, if not, to ask ourselves why and what we can do to produce more fruit. The second is to discern whether those claiming to be leaders, teachers, or prophets are producing these fruit. In Matthew 7:15-18, Jesus calls his followers to watch out for false prophets. You might not be able to tell the difference just by looking at them, he says, but “by their fruit you will recognize them… A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.” If someone claims to be a Christian leader, we can ask ourselves – do they exhibit the fruit of the Spirit? Are their lives and their relationships marked by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control?
Take some time today to mediate on the nine qualities in this list. Read Gal 5:22 out loud, then read or write each word and take a moment to contemplate what it brings to mind. What do you think about when you hear the word love? Goodness? Gentleness? Is there a person in your life each word brings to mind? Which of these fruit do you think you are producing, and which do you wish you could produce more of?
In the following days we will look at each of the fruit in turn, but first, tomorrow, we will look at how we bear fruit.
About The Author
Jessica Kantrowitz spent many years in seminary, earning an M.Div. from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and in various ministries to both Americans and international students. When a health crisis coincided with a faith-shift she left her job in an Evangelical parachurch organization and rediscovered her joy in writing. Her work has been published on Think Christian and The Good Men Project and shared widely throughout social media, in particular her essays, Bake for them two and Things I've been wrong about for most of my life, part one. She lives in Boston where she also works as a nanny and an academic editor. You can find her at her blog, Ten Thousand Places, and on Facebook and Twitter.