Words by Al Blanton | Image by Ryan McGill
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things, there is no law.”
– Galatians 5:22-23
This week, my wife and I visited a kindergarten class at a Christian school. We were there to observe the class and gather ideas with the hope that one day, our children can experience something similar. While we were there, I noticed on the wall nine small posters, each describing one of the fruits of the spirit as outlined in the book of Galatians. Each description, I felt, brought the fruit to life, describing it in a practical way as it might be applied in life. Here is how it looked:
I will treat others the way I want them to treat me.
I look my best when I am wearing a smile.
I will not fight, argue, or use hurtful words toward others.
I am okay waiting my turn and letting others go first.
I will help my friends when in trouble, and I will offer forgiveness when I’ve been wronged.
I will stand up for what is right, even if I’m standing alone.
I will be honest and trustworthy.
I will be a friend to someone who doesn’t have many.
I will control my body and the words I speak.
As I read over these, one by one, each message touched me. I thought about how wonderful it was for the teacher to instill this insight into the lives of 5- and 6-year-olds and how the children’s lives may be impacted for the better by heeding these words.
But then I thought about how much adults need to hear this, too.
When I think about our world and all the things happening—all the meanness, the anger, the hostility toward one another—I think about how adults fall remarkably short of these principles outlined in Galatians. One only has to bump up against circumstances in our life that cause us to wait to see how quickly selfishness kicks in and how “Love” or “Patience,” as outlined above, is violated: getting in the car and pulling into traffic, waiting in line for our prescription medications, and on and on.
But if we call ourselves Christians and say we are following Christ, these are precisely the things that ought to be bearing out in our lives. In other words, if we are truly walking by the Spirit, these are the kinds of things our life should produce.
For a moment, let’s take some time to examine each one of these fruits and ask ourselves, “How much of this particular fruit exists in my life?”
As I go down the line, I realize that, sure, in some ways, I exhibit a tincture of each, but I’m not really “bursting” with any of them. There’s definitely room for improvement.
So how do I get there?
There are two basic approaches: by trusting in my own might or by trusting in God.
If I choose the former, how swiftly I realize the frailty of attempting to manufacture my own fruit. My flesh doesn’t always exhibit self-control, gentleness, or kindness (“Nice,” maybe. Kind? Ol’ Al often finds himself on the Struggle Bus of Kind).
Instead, I should ask God to teach me and help me to have more of each of them. For example:
– “Lord, help me to control my body and the words that I speak. May no unwholesome talk come out of my mouth, but only what helps build others up according to their needs.”
– “Lord, it’s so easy in today’s world to go with the crowd. Help me to always stand up for the truth, even if I’m standing alone. Help me to trust in your goodness and your word, no matter how much pressure the outside world puts on me to go against it.”
– “Lord, sometimes I put myself ahead of others, and I know that’s not right. I don’t always have to be first in line, and sometimes, I get frustrated when things don’t go my way. Give me the patience to navigate my circumstances in a way that is honoring to you and demonstrates Christ’s love toward other people.”
Earlier in Galatians (v. 16), the Apostle Paul instructs us to “walk by the Spirit so we do not gratify the desires of the flesh.”
Living in our flesh does not produce the kind of fruit that is pleasing to God. If we say we belong to Jesus, we will put to death the things of the flesh, pick up our cross, and the fruits outlined on the wall of that kindergarten classroom will begin to manifest in our lives. If the believer is truly seeking to walk in the way of Jesus, not only will these fruits manifest, but they will overflow.
Notice how the fruit of the spirit originates from the tree of Jesus’ life, not our own. Therefore, I need His peace (John 14:27). His patience (2 Peter 3:9). His self-control (Luke 23:34). His gentleness (Matthew 11:29).
And so we ask, Lord, that you help us all exhibit more of your fruit. May our lives exude these enriching, life-giving qualities for our own sake, for the sake of others, and for your glory. WL