But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering [patience], kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
Galatians 5v22-23 is one of those beautiful and poetic Bible passages that I love to recite just because it is so beautiful. In fact, it probably ranks among the top 10, if not the top 5, of my all-time favourite Bible passages for reciting. This would actually also count as one of the Bible passages that has changed my life – just from thinking on it, and aspiring to be full of these beautiful expressions of the Holy Spirit.
When we were kids, my Mum also bought us this amazing series on the Fruit of the Spirit called “Agapeland” which had character lessons for each “fruit”, set to catchy songs. I used to love listening to them, and I still remember how so many of those songs go:
“Self Control should be our goal, Self-control should help, us! Self control should be our goal, to be more like Je-sus!….We need more faith, every single day, we need to trust in the God of the im-poss-i-ble!…We need to trust Him every single way!”
Dragging myself away from that visit into nostalgia, what I hope to do today though is to actually offer up an audit of my own self, my own heart, to evaluate the status of my own character. On this blog I’m always shouting about Christlike character! I’ve made up my mind that this (new) year I’ve got to truly excel and loudly? exuberantly? show forth the fruit of the Holy Spirit dwelling in my heart. So then this is an honest appraisal of my own self, to see how I am doing, and where I need to improve.
LOVE: Ah, love! You know what, I’m going to leave this till last, because Christian love, or Agape, comprises so many of the other “fruits” and I can only give a candid assessment of my love level when I understand how I am doing with everything else. However, to be honest, I already know that this is not an area of great strength for me. I really need to work on loving people more. Perhaps what I need to work on is trying to love people full stop, from my heart, rather than always seeing all the ridiculous things that they do.
JOY: Ordinarily speaking, I would say that joy is one of my strengths in my Christian walk. I like to be happy, I like to be full of joy, I love to come into God’s presence to worship Him, to exalt Him to make His name great! I love pouring out my heart in worship to God, connecting with His Spirit, magnifying His splendour! That said, when I was mentally considering this blog post, I had cause to pause and ask myself: “Am I really full of joy?” I find it so easy to fall into complaints about things that God has not done. This year I also want to be more serious about my gratitude journal. To even see a new day is cause for immense gratitude, and God blesses me so abundantly in everything.
Basic plan for improvement:
By the grace of God I’m going to be keeping this gratitude journal, and using it as a basis for thanking God every day. An idea that also occurred to me was this: to identify the issues which consistently cause me pain or frustration, to bring them to God, to consciously thank Him for these issues every day, and to consciously, deliberately fill my heart with Bible-centred positivity regarding these issues every day.
What does the Bible say about these things? How can I cultivate a positive mindset about them? I’ve got to make up my mind that no matter what, no matter how long I wait, even if I were to wait my entire life, and these things were to remain unresolved, I WILL praise my God, my mouth WILL be full of gratitude towards Him, and I WILL be full of joy for all that He is, and all that He continues to do in my life every day!
PEACE: Am I a lover of peace? I certainly like a tranquil life! Somehow though, I don’t think that that is what the Bible means! I think here the Bible is talking about reconciliation between parties when there has been a rift. As I write this, I’m thinking that Jesus is so amazing; to think that one of His titles is “Prince of Peace”. As human beings we are always falling out with one another (or at least I am!); having disagreements, spats, quarrels, squabbles; it is so powerful and profound that “Prince of Peace” would be one of the offices of God.
To be honest, no, I cannot say that I have truly cultivated a reconciliatory spirit in my heart following disagreements. What I have tended to do is to simply cut people out of my life when they have annoyed me sufficiently.
Basic Plan for improvement:
Once again it all starts from the heart. This is what I’ve got to do. I’ve got to learn to appreciate the value that each person has, despite their imperfections. Whenever someone treads on my toes, which happens often, I’ve got to remind myself that whoever it is, they are a precious and valuable person in the eyes of God. Candidly speaking, it is often not prudent to put myself back into relationship with these people to the same extent or in the same way. However, in my mind, instead of reflecting angrily on all their failings and how dreadful they are, which is what I’ve always done before now, I’ve got to mentally surround them with love in my heart and think instead on how precious they are to God, and how much He loves them, and how He has great plans for their life.
What I am really appreciating so far in all this is how important my heart is in all of this. All of this has to spring forth from my heart, and all true change will only result from deliberate and determined meditation in my heart on loving thoughts.
Here all day?
With the kind of detail that I’m giving each “fruit”, if I were to write out each one today it would be a very long blog post. (Technically it is all one fruit – or is it?! (Depending on what Greek New Testament text is used as the basis for translation, the word for “fruit” in the Greek could be a singular or a plural.)) And then I also plan to talk about things like “Humility” which are not explicitly included in this “Fruit of the Spirit” passage. So I will just do one more today: there was no way I could write this post without talking about Patience!
LONGSUFFERING (also known as PATIENCE)
Ah, Patience! This is without any doubt my single biggest failing regarding other people. I have no patience with other people whatsoever, and I make no pretence about it! What this tends to mean is that I can only associate with “perfect”, or very, very, excellent people. And when they stop being excellent?! See ya! I’m joking about it because I joke about everything. However this is definitely not good and it is not funny either. I really need to develop patience, like seriously! That said, I have been told that I am patient with children, and to be candid I am. What I have no patience for is when I feel people should know better, or are insincere. Actually, my impatience is not even with “people” generally, but mostly with other (adult) Christians, because I feel they should know better. They’ve got the Bible! They claim to subscribe to the teachings of Christ. Why don’t they simply do what the Bible says then, hmm?! (Like, demonstrate a little patience, perhaps?!! Yeah, whatever!)
I know that none of us is perfect. However, I feel that many supposed Christians are not even trying. I feel that there is a huge…thing…wall? foundation? groundswell? acceptance? of insincerity and lukewarmness in the Church at large and I find it very frustrating. Each time I will enter a church, ready to give my thousand percent of commitment and pursuit of Christ, and EACH TIME I will be met with a group of people who are not making the slightest effort whatsoever to genuinely obey Christ or His true teachings*, people who come to church, blow around a load of platitudes, but who will then actively offer you sheer evil, malice, or inconsideration. I just don’t understand why these people call themselves Christians, or advertise their gatherings as “churches”. I think it is quite ironic that this post is talking so much about how I myself need to be changed from the heart outwards, because this is the very thing that is lacking in many of these Christians in these churches. Perhaps it is something we all struggle with, but apparently some of us are struggling harder and with greater determination than others – that is, some of us are actually bothering to struggle!
With people who are not Christians, I tend to think “Well they are not Christians…” – it is not like they are being hypocritical relative to what they claim to believe. However I will still cut off non-Christian friends if they annoy me sufficiently or if I feel that they are not treating me with basic, universal principles of decency or common-sense.
Basic plan for improvement:
This is my big issue with patience, and with these Christians: I honestly don’t know how to deal with it! I don’t know what attitude to cultivate in my heart towards these other Christians, that would help me to feel more gracious towards them. I’ve said it a few times before, and I know that this itself is not very gracious, but I sincerely cannot regard them or interact with them as fellow Christians; I cannot allow myself to expect from them the fellowship that Biblically I would expect to receive from other Christians. I know that the Christians in the Bible were not perfect either, and obviously I am so very far from being perfect myself, as this post has amply demonstrated. But in all candour I am sincerely trying; by the grace and empowerment of God I am going to work on each of these fruits until each and every last one, including patience, becomes an area of strength and excellence in my life. Where I am at just now, the most I can do with many of these people is to try to graciously think of them as people of another faith which happens to reference the same God and the same holy book as my own faith. Perhaps what I really need to do is to stop expecting people to know better or to act better at all, to simply accept them as they are, without reference to how they should be or what they should do as Christians.
Patience is about saying “No matter what”. I guess what I’ve got to do is to make up my mind to keep loving these people “No matter what”, whether they grow as Christians or remain in exactly the same position from day to day or decade to decade, or even if they actively, deliberately choose to move backwards.
So then, if I found a church I felt I could belong to, and there were a few lax Christians there as I have described above, then possibly what I’ve described above would be a way of dealing with it. However, the church thing is itself a big complication, because as the members are, so also are most of the pastors. I just don’t feel that I could respect these pastors sufficiently to submit to their spiritual leadership by attending their churches. So if there was a pastor whose leadership I felt I could submit to, then I could proceed as above regarding the other Christians. However if that is not true then it might be wisest to keep away from these gatherings altogether, and then relate with these people as to non-Christians if I were to meet then in any other context. I know that that might sound harsh. However, there are certain ways I have always related with people because they are Christians. Sadly, from various experiences, I just don’t think it makes sense to have this distinction any more.
Well these are how my thoughts currently stand regarding patience, or rather, regarding other Christians. By the grace of God I will think more about it, I will pray about it, I will ask God for clarity and guidance, and hopefully I will be able to come up with a more constructive and positive approach to this subject.
To be continued: Next time I hope to talk about a few of the other fruits.
*Editing this, and reflecting as I do so, I’m asking myself: “Am I being hugely unfair? Is it possible that I’ve let a few experiences with insincerity taint my view of all these churches?” As awful as this sounds, I don’t think I am being unfair. That said, in these churches there were always also Christians who were genuinely “striving”, and I hope I can also acknowledge that even genuinely “striving” Christians could have their “off-days” (or months…or years…or decades), and then there will always be some people with whom I just naturally don’t get along, even if they are as sincere and committed in their faith as I myself strive to be.
Photo of fruits by Romanov on Pixabay