Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Appreciating The Fruit of The Spirit

I am happy to welcome Chris Jefferies from 'Journeys of Heart and Mind' to my blog today, to do a guest post. He has written on the opposites of the fruit of the Spirit, with the intention of highlighting in a deeper way what they are really like. He also blogs from the UK, which is an encouragement to me as I haven't seen that many Christian blogs here!

Some time ago I wrote a post about the beatitudes with the idea that considering their opposites might be very instructive. It was an interesting and useful exercise!

I think perhaps it would be equally interesting to do the same with the fruit of the Spirit. This fruit is beautifully listed by Paul in his letter to the Galatians, and he adds that there is no law against things such as these. It's one of my all-time favourite passages.

'The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such there is no law.' (Galatians 5:22-23)

Why consider the opposites of these excellent things? That's quite simple. If you have a glorious diamond, setting it against the blackest velvet you can find will show it at its best. The detail is clarified and the brilliance intensified. Consider this as you read on. The descriptions of the opposites will help you appreciate the fruit of the Spirit even more deeply.

Also bear in mind that the opposites of the fruit of the Spirit are the fruit of an altogether different spirit. It may be the fruit of human nature, of the spirit of this world, or of the spirit of the enemy himself.

However you view the opposites, this is bad fruit. Remember that Jesus said that we would know people by their fruit because a bad plant cannot bear good fruit or vice versa (Matthew 7:15-20). He was speaking of false prophets, but the rule can be applied to anyone.

The bad fruit - So then, here is the bad fruit. Let's examine its properties one by one and see what we can learn from it.

Hatred - Clearly this is the opposite of love. Hatred in our hearts is a source of destruction and death. Doesn't John write that it's equivalent to murdering someone? (1 John 3:15)  Just think how it causes a person's heart to shrivel up and become unfeeling, unseeing and unhearing towards the pain and woe of others. Hatred is a root of antagonism, war, and of course murder. Be full of love.

Gloom - We all know people with a gloomy outlook on life. To them everything seems dark and unlovely. They don't smile or laugh, they are not fun to be around, they are always heavy-hearted. How will a gloomy person ever share the good news with the lost? They don't even seem to comprehend good news! Gloom is the very opposite of joy, always downhearted and frowning. Be full of joy.

Turmoil, trouble, distress and doubt - There's no single English word for the opposite of peace. The middle eastern idea encompasses peace, quietness and rest. Jesus came to bring peace for us, He is the Prince of Peace. We have no hope of standing in the Father's presence, seeing His glory or being part of His kingdom without first receiving peace through the Son. Be full of peace.

Impatience - Impatience is a subtle fruit of the human spirit. We think it does little harm and may even be a good thing. Isn't it good to 'get things done'? Yes it is, but not if we steamroller one another in the process. Impatience causes accidents and shows a lack of politeness and the absence of a truly caring heart. Love is never impatient (1 Corinthians 13:4). Be full of patience.

Unkindness - Doing what you would not want done to yourself, that is unkindness. It makes people so unhappy. Kindness costs little or nothing so unkindness cannot even be justified as saving time or money. It comes from a hard heart, a heart of stone. Unkindness simply can't be bothered to help, or worse it takes pleasure in disappointing. But see how Jesus values kindness! He notices if we so much as give a thirsty person a little water (Matthew 25:34-40). Be full of kindness.

Badness - The opposite of goodness - what more can we say! Be full of goodness.

Infidelity - This is not simple lack of faith, it goes much further than that! It's not the opposite of faith, it's the opposite of faithfulness, of keeping faith. Infidelity is about breaking bonds of allegiance - to a friend, a spouse, a nation, or worst of all to Christ himself. Faithfulness is hanging on, infidelity is letting go. Consider the consequences of letting go and you will more clearly see the real value of holding on. Be full of faithfulness.

Harshness - This is the opposite of gentleness. It's that abrasive way some people have of trampling on others, especially the weak. Be full of gentleness.

Rash indulgence - Self-control holds back, not wanting to be the first in line when something good is being handed out. But rash indulgence pushes to the front in case the good thing runs short. Self-control suggests a mature steadiness in thought and word as well as in action. But a rash person will act first and think afterwards. Be full of self-control.

Summarising - I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me. It's not just that I can do what seems impossible but that everything I do I can choose to do in him.

He is in me and he will help me with every little thing. Then the fruit of the Spirit will flow out through me and the other, bad, worldly fruit will appear ever less.

Christ in us the hope of glory. The same Christ who said, 'Without me you can do... nothing'

Be full of the Spirit. Be full of Christ. 'Look, I'm knocking on the outside of the door. If anyone will open the door I'll come in and eat with them.'

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