“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.” Galatians 5:22-23
One wonders what question the apostle Paul was answering when he wrote these words to the people of Galatia. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Was it, “How do I know those people are really Christians?” Or “How can that person possibly be a follower of Jesus?” Paul’s answer, was to see outside the box of specifics they were analyzing, and to start looking at the kind of fruit their fellow Christians were producing. He asked instead, “How is the Spirit of God working in their lives?” Do you see a “Spirit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self control,” or for that matter, “Do others see that in you?”
I admit there are days when the Spirit wages war with the part of my nature that would like to let out some zingers related to a certain political persona. Or add a snarky comment to the comments in a newspaper column, or a less than gracious response to a friend’s Facebook post. The trouble with Jesus is, he expects his followers to love each other. Then, when we disagree, to either speak the truth in love or not speak at all. He expects us to love the people who look, act and think like us . . . and all the rest who do not.
I write this, feeling something in the essence of America has been lost . . . a something which threatens our integrity, combined wisdom and compassion. We’ve become quick to accuse and slow to think the best of those who disagree with us. Our ongoing political struggle tests our patience and our care. Last week I heard three stories of relationships broken over the Presidential election. With the combined stresses of post election turmoil and rapidly rising COVID 19 cases, I’m reminding myself to be extra patient and extra kind to my circle of friends, family, co-workers, neighbors and social media connections.
Rebuilding community will require a monumental effort of patience, persuasion, persistence and love. It will take all of us laying down our resentments and each of us listening to the other. The alternative, is for the brokenness in our country to become the norm.
When Paul wrote to the people of Galatia, he also called them to unity. Galatia’s first Christians, engaged in heavy internal conflict, would be surprised to learn how their divisions left us a roadmap. Responding to first century Christian conflicts, Paul called the people to set aside their false divisions, their comparisons of outward symbols and their sense of superiority, saying “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Today, I suspect he might add a few words, “There is neither conservative nor progressive, neither Democrat nor Republican, neither Evangelical nor Mainline liberal, neither staunch Baptist nor Roman Catholic, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”