22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against things like this.
For many, this is a familiar passage that describes our expectations of a “perfect” Christian. Or, at least our outward expectations of how we hope to experience them. We want them to be loving, joyful, peaceable, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and always reserved – never angry or out of control.
I will refer to the “fruits of the Spirit” whenever I consider what a faithful life ought to look like. And I sometimes wonder: how are people experiencing me against this list? Often, I have a feeling that if I were being scored, I would probably be a few grapes short of a fruit salad.
But then again, it might be worth asking the question: how are we practicing the fruits of the Spirit internally – that is, when it comes to dealing with ourselves? Are we really being fair? Are we really judging accurately? Or are we judging ourselves more harshly than we would someone else?
Years ago, I was visiting a church in Sacramento. I met the associate pastor, who had clearly missed the first service – as a parishioner made sure to remind her. She said, “Yep, I missed church. You know what though? God loves me anyway!” That’s stuck with me as the way I would hope to deal with myself: with grace and kindness, always mindful of God’s love for me.
Often, I’m sorry to say, I’m very far from that ideal. When it comes to caring for myself, I’m probably more like half a honeydew short of a fruit salad.
But that’s not how it’s meant to be. The fruits of the Spirit are not just intended to be given away like you’re at some church potluck. God wants you to save some for yourself too!
By Joe Monahan
For Pondering & Prayer
Who do you judge more harshly: yourself or others? I find that many Christians judge themselves for things they would readily forgive in family members and friends. Today, can you embrace your mistakes and still say: “I know, but God loves me anyway”?
Prayer: God, we are thankful for your grace that allows us to accept others as they are. When we see it in others, we consider that graciousness a fruit of the Spirit. Today, let it be seen in us, towards us, so that we might become ever more aware of your great love that has given everything to save us. Amen.