Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Fruits of the Spirit

By Colleen O’Sullivan

Brothers and sisters:  If you are guided by the Spirit, you are not under the law… (T)he fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.  Against such there is no law.  Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified their flesh with its passions and desires.  If we live in the Spirit, let us also follow the Spirit.  (Galatians 5:18, 22b-25)

The Lord said:  “Woe to you Pharisees!  You pay tithes of mint and of rue and of every garden herb, but you pay no attention to judgment and to love for God.  These you should have done, without overlooking the others…  And he said, “Woe also you scholars of the law!  You impose on people burdens hard to carry, but you yourselves do not life one finger to touch them.”  (Luke 11:42, 46)

His mercy endures forever, his faithfulness lasts through every generation.  (Psalm 100:5b)

Our Scripture readings today each point up the difference between life under the Law vs. life lived in the Spirit of Christ.  By Jesus’ time, the Law had truly become a burden.  Much of human origin had been added to it over the generations.  There was a rule or regulation to fit every ritual, every social situation as well as every moral circumstance.  Adherence to the Law was considered the path to God.  The Pharisees and the scholars of the Law were always quick to point out where a person wasn’t living up to the letter of it.  Their sanctimonious attitude is what angers Jesus so much.  He says they have forgotten about the love of God and about having compassion for others.

Paul reminds the Galatians that they are free in Christ – free from life under the Law and free to live in the Spirit.  When a person lives in the Spirit, his or her life bears the fruits of the Spirit.  Those who know love and forgiveness through Jesus gratefully pass these gifts on to others through these fruits.

As I reflected on these readings, it struck me that in a way it’s a mind vs. heart issue.  Our hearts don’t need to be involved if all we are doing is following a checklist of do’s and don’ts.  Our minds will suffice.  And for some of us, that’s as far as we want to go.  If we want to live in the Spirit, however, our hearts have to be open to the indwelling presence of the Spirit.  We have to come to know the Spirit of Jesus through prayer.  Our hearts have to be willing to be transformed through the power of the Spirit.  It’s the path to true freedom, but it requires more of us.

It also occurred to me that the checklist approach or simply following a list of rules involves an image of God I don’t want anything to do with.  I don’t think God is a God of conditional love, but if getting it all right is the path to this God, what happens if we miss a regulation or two?  Is God going to be angry with our imperfection?  Is God going to give us the cold shoulder or love us less?

God loves us unconditionally and, out of that love, places his Son’s Spirit within each of us.  If we live in the Spirit, our lives will produce fruits that pass on the love of God to others.  That is what God desires of us – that we share what we, through grace, have received.

The indwelling Spirit produces fruit in our lives as a result of our relationship through the Spirit with Jesus.   What fruit do you desire?  Spend some time today praying for that gift.

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