Over the last several weeks, on this bulletin page, we’ve been studying Galatians 5:19-23, the famous list of works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit. We’ve looked at the Biblical definition of the works of the flesh (some of them are not common words) and we got a few examples of how we still practice them today—so we can be careful to avoid them in our Christian lives.
Last week we talked about the concept of the fruit of the Spirit: that it is 1) from the Spirit of God, 2) more than merely making other disciples, and 3) that it is a whole changed life, not just a list of a few virtues to take or leave.
So now let’s take a look at a few facets of the wonderful fruit of the Spirit.
This is agape love, the love broad enough to include all mankind—good or bad, friend or enemy, countryman or foreigner, believer or not. In this sense it is sometimes described “unconditional love”. But it is more; it is a decision and commitment to speak and act in the best interest of one’s neighbor. But here is what it is not: it is not the permissive and soft love full of rainbows, and unicorns that the world thinks it is. Jesus was the perfect embodiment of this love. His love certainly did include kindness and compassion; but when the occasion called for it, His love also included cleansing the Temple, correcting the proud, outright condemnation of some, and speaking the truth bluntly. This love is powerful, surprising, and right. Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (John 13:34).
This is another word that can be easily misunderstood, because of the world’s perception and definition of it; joy is more than mere happiness. We are happy when all is right with our world, but it evaporates quickly as soon as the circumstances of our lives change. Christian joy, on the other hand, is founded on the greater and eternal truths that are invisible to the world, but which Christians know are real nonetheless: the joy of God’s love, the joy of the Gospel, the joy of Christ’s resurrection, the joy of forgiveness, the joy of a new kind of life, and even the joy of suffering (knowing what it accomplishes, James 1:2ff)—to name just a few! Such joy in the Lord powers courage, perseverance, mission, strength, and a shockingly different attitude for the Christian, even while experiencing the trials and troubles of this world.
Once again, the Christian sees the idea of peace differently from the world. Worldly peace is the lack of conflict and absence of a troubled heart. But the Biblical idea is much broader and has little to do with whether everything is OK; in fact, Christian peace is at its best when things are not going well. The Hebrew word for peace is shalom, and the NT gets its meaning from the Hebrew meaning. It refers to the well-being of the mind, of the heart, of my relations with others, and most importantly my relationship with God. It is this last facet, one’s relationship with God, that that makes all the difference; because even in the midst of turmoil, our faith and trust rests comfortably in the Father who loves, provides, and listens. This is why Paul says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6, 7).