But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control... (Gal. 5:22-23, NASB)
We said that verse so many times, I easily still remember it.
This summer my pastor is preaching through the fruit of the Spirit. While I'd memorized the verses, I never broke down each characteristic of the fruit, and thought about what each one meant. So far, I've learned about love, joy and peace. And what I've learned has rocked my world a little bit.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the sermon on love, and how I'm learning love. The quote from the sermon that keeps making its way through my mind is: Love uses tact, and makes others feel at ease. I think that one stays with me because I am prone to be so tact-less. I often think before I speak, and what comes out is not grace-filled. Eek! I don't like that about myself.
The quote I took away from the sermon on joy is this: Joy doesn't come from a technique; it comes from a relationship (with God). There's not enough good we can do to make ourselves feel joy. Happiness, sure. But not true, deep-down, heart-filled joy.
Then there was yesterday's sermon on peace. Oh, my! Once again, I couldn't get my pen to move quickly enough to write down the words God spoke to me through my pastor. While my pastor had five points to his sermon, the second was the one that made my hand hurt from writing: Be gentle.
Here are some quotes from that point:
- Be flexible in dealing with others
- A lack of respect leads to being harsh with others
- When we don't see people created in the image of God, we will abuse and bully them
- We don't need to point out people's failings; they already know them
- Be thoughtful
- Find what's good in someone, not what's wrong
- Celebrate the progress others make
At this point in my life, I can look at that list and honestly say, I'm making progress. But for most of my life, I felt the need to point out everything I saw wrong with someone else or their beliefs. I was in no way flexible; it was my way or the highway.
After seeing my own sin and realizing my desperate need for a Savior, a slow realization came upon me: everyone struggles, and everyone needs a Savior. I soon developed a sensitivity and gentleness towards those who struggle with sin. I remember what it was like to be keenly aware of my sin, yet not caring. I also remember what it was like to be keenly aware of my sin, and crushed with guilt.
Now I understand what it means to find what's good in someone, and not point out their failings. I understand what it means to celebrate someone else's progress. After all, it's often a slow process of removing one's self from living in sin to living a grace-filled life. And it's my pleasure to celebrate every step of progress someone makes toward living in grace.
Stay tuned for patience. I'm sure the notes from that sermon will make my hand fall off! In the meantime, all this talk of fruit has me craving an orange...