Most people get nervous when you start talking about spirits. Most Christians reach a different level of nervousness… one never thought possible. To be fair, willy-nilly (yes, this is a deep theological term) and home-spun interpretations of the Holy Spirit’s work in today’s world have left those outside of a more charismatic understanding more than a bit cautious. Our Christianity is often shaped by (whether we like to admit it or not) our modernity. Our culture is often uncomfortable and unfamiliar with anything abstract… choosing to deal only in the concrete. And while some of the Spirit talk will need to be saved for its own discussion, you simply cannot begin a discussion of the fruit (or evidence) of the Spirit’s presence in one’s life without acknowledging that there is some pre-existing confusion within the Christian community.
The clear case that the Scriptures make is that it is the very presence of the Spirit in the life of a believer that changes us into the likeness of Jesus. In the next few days I’d like to offer my personal commentary (and, as always, hopefully start a discussion) on a text in Galatians 5:22-23 which has become a touchstone for the exploration of the work of the Spirit. This is not meant as an exhaustive list. In fact, I would argue that it isn’t a list at all. It’s more of a collective understanding of the type of characteristics that a follower of Jesus is meant to reflect because the Spirit of God lives within. Perhaps that’s why they are not the fruits (plural) of the Spirit. Collectively these are the types of behaviors that are to be different in Jesus-followers. Sadly this is all too often not the case.
The text reads like this…
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. There is no law against these things!
More often Christians are known for being unloving, not so joyful, not very peaceful, impatient, unkind, self-righteous, unfaithful, rough and out of control. As we inspect our own fruit in the coming days may we see what parts of our personal character need to better reflect the work of the Spirit and the life of Jesus in our lives.