When you think of having patience, especially with one another, what images come to mind?
What about having patience with a situation, when we’re waiting for an answer, for direction, or for relief from a difficult situation?
Patience, says Paul, is one aspect of the Fruit of the Spirit. The Greek word is translated as longsuffering in the King James Version of the Bible. That is a more literal translation and points to the particular meaning of having patience with one another. The word, suffer, another “King James word,” can have a very different meaning in this context from what we usually think of when we hear the word, suffer.
I think the best example of this meaning of suffer is in the King James translation of Mark 10:14: “Suffer the little children to come unto me.” This meaning of the word, suffer, is more akin to allow. This also calls to mind the example of when John Wesley wrote in anger and frustration to Francis Asbury, “How dare you suffer yourself to be called Bishop?”
Longsuffering, then, is more like “long allowing” a kind of forgiveness, in a way. In fact, the New International Version (NIV) of the Bible translates this kind of patience with others as “forbearance.”
The kind of patience we are to have with one another mirrors what the Psalmist says about God in Psalm 86:15: “. . . slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”
The next aspect of the Fruit of the Spirit we’re examining this week is kindness. Kindness is a simple thing, really. There’s nothing complicated about kindness, right?
We used to hear a lot about Random Acts of Kindness, which puts kindness more in the league of altruism. There are also times when the word, kindness, can take on a connotation of naivete or weakness, as in “he just too kind for his own good.”
The Greek word that is translated kindness is also sometimes translated goodness because we don’t have a word that quite gets to the notion of kind and good at the same time. The term also carries the notion of “useful kindness,” so it is meeting real needs in the best way. One commentator describes the word as “Spirit-produced goodness which meets the need and avoids human harshness (cruelty).” Being kind to others as Paul is describing in this passage means paying less attention to yourself and your own problems and focusing on doing something good for others. (The bonus, here, of course, is sometimes a nice break from your own problems!)
The other benefits of this type of kindness are widely reported: increased happiness, a healthier heart, a slowing of the aging process, improved relationships and connections with others, and all kinds of other boosts to your health and your life.
It’s also no secret that when we’re kind to someone it does lift their spirits — and usually it lifts ours, too! Almost always, kindness just makes everyone feel better. Or, as Karl Menninger, an American psychiatrist who founded the Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas, is famous for saying, “Kindness is medicine for a sick world.”
This brings us to the third aspect of the “Fruit of the Spirit” we’ll be looking at this week: generosity. This word is also sometimes translated as “goodness.” The word denotes intrinsic goodness, especially as a personal quality, with stress on the active, beneficent kind of goodness. It is a kind of deep spirit of generosity that pervades the whole of life. True goodness is generosity and true generosity is goodness.
So, the generosity Paul is describing here is a broader generosity — a deeper goodness that encompasses generosity of life, generosity of spirit, and a generosity of riches — both tangible and intangible. This kind of generosity doesn’t look at everything with an eye toward, “what’s in it for me?” It never views the world through a lens of scarcity, but rather, through a lens of abundance.
So, this Sunday, as we continue our Life in the Spirit summer worship series, we’ll unpack together the next three items on Paul’s list of “The Fruit of the Spirit,” and perhaps together we can discover some new and inspiring ways to look at these very familiar terms.
I look forward to seeing you in worship this Sunday in our Sanctuary services.
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster