But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
–Galatians 5:22-23 NET
The vestiges of “plate-spinning” spirituality reside deep within me—and though not even knowing you, I suspect it resides deep within you, too. Whether we like to admit it or not, I suspect we all are what I call, “card-carrying legalists.” We try hard to live up to an assumed standard our culture thinks defines a true Christian. Problem is, which culture is correct? Where I attended college, since “it was a shame for men to wear long hair,” crew cuts defined righteous living for men. A woman’s chaste behavior was defined by (among other things) whether her skirt was below her knees—anything 2 inches or higher was considered sinful.
My story is clearly extreme, however, I suspect every believer could tell a story about how some kind of “sin” was strangely defined in their context. While striving not to sin is a good thing, it still makes not sinning the point of the Christian life. Holiness gets defined as abstinence rather than living in and for the lover of our souls. Sin management focuses on sin, not love, which is what Jesus calls us to and empowers us to do.
Resurrection power is our birthright (Romans 8:11). It’s the power of God that restrains sin in our lives (Galatians 5:16), not our efforts to get it right. The cool thing is, this resurrection power also produces miracles in us (Galatians 5:22, 23). Scholars translating the NET Bible suggest an alternate punctuation of the Greek in these verses. “Love” could be followed by a colon (love: joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control), which means it is possible to understand Paul as defining love with the following eight characteristics. Given the big deal Jesus made about love (John 13:1, 34; 15:12, 17; et.al.), it stands to reason that Paul is pointing us to the core miracle the Spirit produces in our lives—a robust love.
Remember, coming into this world, we did not naturally want (love) God. Love turned inward (self-centered living) is one definition of sin. Now, with the Spirit’s movement in our lives, our love is beginning to turn outward—we are growing in our love of God and others. The fact that I love more now than ever before is evidence of God’s work in me. I cannot reproduce the kind of love between the Father and the Son in my flesh. I need the Spirit to love like Jesus, which is what He is producing in me… and you.
ACTION: Take some time today to ask your spouse and close friends how they see you growing in love. Give them the same blessing of offering to point out how they are more loving than before. Sure, there could be a lot of garbage in the way, but I suspect if we look hard enough, we will catch glimpses of God in others and ourselves.