By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23a)
Over the next nine weeks, we are going to explore the Fruits of the Spirit from Paul’s letter to the Galatians. They are listed above and we will begin with the very first (and I would argue the most essential): love.
In this section of the Letter, the author is identifying the particular way of life that is meant to be lived by those who follow Christ. He begins by listing all of the things we are not meant to do, which include all of the usual “sins of the flesh” like unhealthy sexual relationships, intoxicating drugs, and Rock’n’Roll. (Just kidding. Music is never mentioned – sorry “squares”). He does however include using God’s gifts of knowledge to control others.
And then comes the real “rub”: licentiousness, idolatry, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, and envy. Ten stipulations that are not directly related to the behaviors we have so often been taught are bad. What does this teach us? That far more of our problems have to do with something other than all the things we teach teenagers to avoid.
Instead, the things with which we more often grapple are these: telling lies and accepting them as truth, making God look like ourselves, hostility, seeking conflict, desperately coveting what we do not have, fighting, antagonizing one another, becoming entrenched in our positions, and letting our desire to have everything control our lives and how we interact with others.
This is a strikingly accurate list. It is all of these things that are truly at the forefront of our world. While many may point to fornication, impurity, sorcery, drunkenness, and carousing as the roots of all our problems, the honest truth is that those are far more often ways to distract ourselves from the real work that needs to be done.
Remember that Christ whittled the commandments and the law down to these: love God and love your neighbor as yourself. Sin is any time we break the relationships Christ listed – with God, with our neighbors (any other humans on this planet), and with ourselves. And living into our calling, well it all begins with that key word – love.
This is a love that does not force its own will. It seeks to empower and build up others. It seeks reconciliation and will accept no less than true justice and equity for all of God’s children. It is love that tears down walls and overturns the kingdoms run on all the works of the flesh Paul listed. Love that mends. Love that rebuilds. Love that welcomes. Love will never fail.
It is upon this base that all the other ways we fulfill Christ’s law depend. None of us will fulfill this law perfectly and all of us have fallen prey to the works of the flesh. We have all sinned and fallen short. And yet, God’s love never gives up on us.
Isn’t it time we start figuring out how to spread that same love to the world?