Dreams that Shape the City / Day 29

BIBLE READING

Galatians 5: 16-26

So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever[c] you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

REFLECTION

Spiritual maturity and relational health should always go hand in hand.  Just as the internal, unseen activity inside an apple tree will produce visible fruit, so the inner working of the Spirit of God in the life of a Christian will always spill out into how we treat other people.  It is inconceivable to the Apostle Paul that you can be spiritual yet nasty; saved yet selfish; forgiven yet bitter; born again yet bigoted.  If the work of the Spirit isn't producing the fruit of the Spirit, then a different spirit is at work.  

In his challenging book, 'The Emotionally Healthy Church', Peter Scazerro laments:

“Many are supposedly ‘spiritually mature’ but remain infants, children or teenagers emotionally.  They demonstrate little ability to process anger, sadness or hurt.   They whine, complain, distance themselves, blame and use sarcasm–like little children when they don’t get their way. Highly defensive to criticism or differences of opinion, they expect to be taken care of and often treat people as objects to meet their needs.”

Obviously he is describing a deep deficiency in how many within the church think about spiritual maturity. Paul, here in Galatians 5, helps us see what real spirituality actually looks like.

Notice Paul's use of the singular 'fruit' of the Spirit, not 'fruits'.  In other words, unlike the gifts of the Spirit which are distributed one by one to different people as the church has need, the fruit of the Spirit are found together like a bunch of grapes instead of separate pieces of fruit. As the Holy Spirit fills and indwells our lives, the primary manifestations we should see aren't charismatic gifts but relational fruit.  Our attitudes, temperament, conversations, disposition, generosity, dependability and trustworthiness will be touched and transformed by the Spirit. This is true Christ-likeness  - it is what made Jesus so magnetically attractive to the religious outsiders of His day - and it is also what our world today desperately needs to see from the people of God if we are to be taken seriously.