This week we’ll continue our Life in the Spirit worship series with the beginning of a deeper exploration of what Paul calls, “The Fruit of the Spirit.” He describes the fruit born by a life lived in the Spirit as “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”
In the 5th chapter of Galatians Paul says, “If we live by the Spirit, let’s follow the Spirit.” It really all boils down to how we live our lives. When we open ourselves to the work and power of the Holy Spirit and strive to live as Christ taught us to live, then our lives will bear certain fruit. So, the evidence of a life lived in the Spirit is these visible and internalized qualities of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
This Sunday we’ll be talking about the first three aspects of The Fruit of the Spirit — love, joy, and peace. Of course, it’s no surprise that love is at the top of this list. Love was always at the top of the list for Jesus and always topped the list for Paul, as well.
In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul says, “faith, hope, and love abide, but the greatest of these is love.” So, he begins his list with love. The Greek word for this kind of love, agape, is very particular; it translates as “unconditional goodwill.” Therefore, if we are living in the Spirit, our lives will bear the fruit of this agape love.
How do we grow this fruit in our lives? Well, first we learn more and more how to love as Christ calls us to love. Remember, agape love is unconditional goodwill. It’s an act of the will, not an emotion. Sometime this is not easy. Sometimes it takes great will to love when our emotions and ego tell us otherwise. But when we strive to love as Christ calls us to love, we use our will to overcome our emotions — to love and extend goodwill in spite of whatever circumstances or emotions are telling us otherwise.
Joy, as The Fruit of the Spirit, is not the same as happiness. This kind of joy is not dependent on anything that is happening — or not happening. And while joy can ride right along beside something that makes you happy, it certainly doesn’t rely on it. This joy is a different thing altogether, and a live lived in joy may certainly have periods of unhappiness.
Haven’t you known someone who remains joyful even in grim circumstances? No, they’re not happy about their situation or whatever is going on that is causing them pain, but there is just an overriding joy there that is unmistakable. That’s the kind of joy Paul is talking about when he refers to The Fruit of the Spirit.
I think the same distinction can be found in a life lived in peace. In this sense, peace is something we have and feel not just when everything is good, our problems are resolved, and our going is smooth.
This is a kind of peace that has nothing to do with the setting or situation we find ourselves in, and sometimes exists even in spite of it. This is the kind of peace, as Paul says, that “surpasses all understanding” — it goes beyond our ability to really comprehend it. Sometimes it makes no sense at all! How could anyone could be at peace with such dire circumstances? And yet, somehow we are!
What these three aspects of The Fruit of the Spirit — love, joy, and peace — have in common is that none of them are dependent on our external circumstances or the actions or choices of another person. This is fruit produced in our lives regardless of circumstances.
The Fruit of the Spirit is not a list of things to do. It’s not a self-help regimen we can undertake. It’s not another set of rules or commandments to follow. Instead, it is descriptive of the results that grow quite naturally on their own when we open ourselves to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. What this description does require, however, comes more in the form of a challenge to look at our lives and the fruit we are bearing.
How is it with the way you love, the deep sense of joy you feel, or our experience of peace that has nothing to do with what’s going on around you?
I look forward to exploring these questions more deeply with you this Sunday in our Sanctuary services.
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster
Galatians 5:22-25 Common English Bible (CEB)
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against things like this. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the self with its passions and its desires.
If we live by the Spirit, let’s follow the Spirit.