What the Fruits of the Spirit are not...

Galatians 5:22-23 - "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." Against such things that is no law."

If you look at my previous 9 blogs, you can read an entry on each of the 9 fruits of the Spirit.  I enjoyed diving deeper into each one and panning for gold.  Sometimes it's easy to just glaze over Scriptures like this one and to miss the power pulsating off the page.

But I found myself bothered a little to be honest.  It's not so much the attributes that made the list of 9, but the critical characteristics that I didn't see there, at least at first glance.  It seemed to me that most of the vitures were very discreet, genial, considerate, and genteel.  But I've found a need for some of the more agressive traits in my time on this planet.  I think it's nice to be nice, but there is a time and a season for everything under the sun as it says in Ecclesiastes 3.

There is a time for love, and a time for hate.
There is a time for joy, and a time for anger.
There is a time for peace, and a time for battle.
There is a time for patience, and a time for pulling the trigger.
There is a time for kindness, and a time for toughness.
There is a time for goodness, and a time for stubborness.
There is a time for faithfulness, and a time for saying 'enough is enough'.
There is a time for gentleness, and a time for courage.
There is a time for self-control, and a time for losing it over something unacceptable.

As it says in Ephesians 4 "in your anger, do not sin"...so all anger isn't sin.  There is a time to feel the righteousness indignation that God feels in his holiness.  Honestly, we need more of that kind of anger to fuel our faith these days.  And as long as we're talking about good anger, we should talk about just hate.  When God says in Romans 12 to "hate what is evil and cling to what is good", I think he means just that.  We need to hate injustice in all forms.  We need to hate sin and the effects of sin with a burning passion.  I know the fruits of the Spirit don't seem to make room for these emotions, but latent inside the good expression is the presence of a healthy negative reaction to all that is not virtuous.  If that didn't exist, we wouldn't be against anything, simply for things.  We wouldn't fight evil, we would simply not participate in it.  This, to me, isn't enough.

Lately I've been really wrestling with the concept of joy.  It's so easy to feel like I'm failing if I'm not a ceaseless wellspring of joy for people to be inspired by.  I was in counseling not long ago and was asked, "What pressure do you feel on the weekends at church that crush you?"  I'm sure if I sat there a while I could come up with several things that compound together, but my 'first fresh flash', my gut-response was this: "I feel like there is so much pain and sadness and depression in the world that I need to be inspiring and make people feel happy at least for one hour of their week."  Even as it came out of my mouth, I realized how soul-killing this 'good desire' was in the long haul.  If I couldn't express the full spectrum of my human emotions like anger, sorrow, or disappointment for fear that it would disparage or discourage people, then I would not be honest and true to myself.  It would be the death of my heart of hearts.  I have to be able to emote more than just joy...I must be able to feel the ache and angst just like everyone else.  False joy just like false humility is a God-facade.  I have to believe the fruits of the Spirit aren't meant to be 9 layers of virtuous veneer to spread over your life to cover up the full range of emotions God gave us to express His heart to the world.  Beleive me, God's reactions through the Scriptures were unexpectedly raw and real, and none of them diminished his holiness, they accentuated his wholeness.  That's what I want, a whole life, the holistic Christian life.

As a pastor, there are times when the pursuit of peace could actually be detrimental to the unity of our church.  Sometime I have to dress for battle and wage war against gossipers and slanderers and busybodies and backstabbers in the church.  I wish I could just make everyone hold hands as a peace-maker, but some people need to feel the "rod and staff" of the shepherd.  They need to understand if they carry on with their divisive behavior, they will be driven out of the fold...by me.  They don't need coddling, they need to see what it feels like to be threatened by justice.  They need to feel the sting of being called a wolf in sheep's clothing.  I'm a lover not a fighter, but I will fight if it means protecting people and the healthy culture of the kingdom we deeply need.

I'm all for patience, but I've also seen this used as an excuse for procrastination or deliberation.  Things are tabled on elder board agendas for years.  Visions go unpursued as leaders wait for the perfect timing or the perfect set of circumstances.  Good things go undone in the name of prudence and it's cowardly.  Sometimes you just have to take initiative and pull the trigger.  Not because you know that you know it will work, but that you refuse to be called successful simply because you never failed, and you never failed because you never attempted anything.  Pray, seek advice, and then "try", "speak", "act".  I love the quote that says, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." (Edmund Burke)  That about sums it up.  This is killing the cause of Christ.

My mom used to say, "Kill them with kindness" and there are times to do just that.  But come on, there is a time to get tough on crime, especially repeat offenders.  A moment where the sweet spirit ends, and the strength of a leader must rise up and say, "Enough is enough".  I love to be around people that won't turn a blind eye, a deaf ear, or a dull heart to a situation that demands a strong show of force.  Too many pastors and preachers unfortunately aren't leaders.  They don't know they can and must stand up and gird up their loins when the wrong people are taking advantage of the good-hearted people.  If you think "turning the other cheek" means letting people slap good people around, you haven't read the story of when Jesus entered the temple where kind-hearted people were being taken advantage of.  He wasted no time in deliberately making a whip out of cords and drove out the crooks by thrashing them and turning over their tables of greed and deceit.  I love that.  Jesus wasn't just Mr. Marshmellow, he was willing to set aside kindness for rightness, and when something "just wasn't right", he would do something to "make it right".

Even faithfulness has a blind spot in my opinion.  I have watched people stay in relationships and churches in the name of loyalty.  They didn't want to quit.  They didn't want to say, "This has got to stop and if it doesn't, I'm going to leave."  There's a time for that and it's not being unfaithful.  It's saying to a women who is being abused, get out of that house!  It's saying to a person trapped in a corrupt church led by controlling, oppressive religion, "It's legalistic and dead wrong...get your family, leave, and don't look back!"  It's saying to a person caught in a dead end job with so much more to offer, "You have every right to see and seek what's out there that will connect with your gifts and your dreams.  Put in your two week notice."  It's saying to people who stuggle with settling into the status quo and the comfort zone, "Strike camp, launch out, you have such a short life, so don't waste it in something less than God's best for you."  When people are made to feel guilty for leaving or quitting something bad or (even good) in order to pusue what is best, the kingdom suffers.  I would say it this way, "You must be faithful to God's call on your life, not other people's expectations of your life."  You must be faithful to that purpose even if it makes others feel disappointed.

I could go on, but you get the point.  I would hate for this powerful passage to be another legalistic list that stifles the great need for holistic followers of Christ.  We don't need more plastic or pansaic people (or pastors).  We don't need more fearful and safe leaders.  We don't need doormats and wallflowers living the nuetered and nuetral life and calling it Christ-like.  To be godly is to be fully human, living out these 9 virtues in all their holistic glory.  Embedded in each of these seemingly passive qualities are countless thousands of agressive attributes that mustn't be missed.  We need the 360 degree version of each of these fruits in order for the church to be leading the way in creating the future by becoming the revolutionary movement Christ dreamt it could be.

"I will build my church and the gates of hell won't stand against it." - Jesus

This is a call for winsome warriors to rise up with a raw righteousness that defeats the darkness.

Lord, give us holistic holiness.


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