Thursday, June 23, 2011

Longsuffering, Gentleness, and Goodness

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness…"

Galatians 5:22

The first three qualities of the fruit of the Spirit are the Spirit’s productions of Godly character in us. These three qualities are interrelated. For instance, when we experience God's unconditional love we will experience joy. We will also develop the characteristic of peace and it will be a peace beyond our understanding in that it, too, will remain intact despite our circumstances. We cultivate all three of these characteristics by cultivating our relationship with God.

The next three qualities listed in the fruit of the spirit are longsuffering, gentleness, and kindness. They are all characteristics that are going to be visible as we interact and relate with other people. Long-suffering is courageous endurance through difficult situations and difficult relationships. Another definition said it was forbearance under provocation. That means being patient with someone when they are irritating or frustrating us. It carries the idea of being patient when you hear water dripping and can't get it to quit. Two extreme examples of this popped in to my head when I read that. One was when Christ was on the cross and when Stephen was being stoned. Both of them prayed for those killing them. Christ had every right to come off the cross and wipe out everyone, but His love kept Him there; compelling Him to pray for those crucifying Him. Steven, through the Holy Spirit was able to adopt the love and the longsuffering that Christ had and echoed His prayer for the men stoning Him.

Gentleness is the second fruit listed that is exhibited through relationships. It is simply being kind toward others. Christ displayed that in his dealings with people. He was kind to the adulterous woman who was brought to him. He was kind to the blind man He had given sight to when He sought him out after the religious leaders had confronted the man. He was kind to a leper that He had healed by His touch. He was kind to children that flocked to Him. He was gentle with the woman who was bleeding for 12 years and reached out and touched Him. He showed Mary kindness by defending her when others criticized her for anointing Him with expensive oil. He showed kindness to His mother, Mary, as He was hanging on the cross by asking his disciple to care for her. He showed Peter kindness by seeking him out after he had denied Christ three times.

Goodness is the last of the fruits that is visible through our relationships. It is essentially love in action. It has an implication of uprightness and is love expressed with pure motives and righteousness. It carries with it the indication of reaching out to others to do good even when they do not deserve it. In Acts 9 we find a lady named Dorcas who lived in Joppa. She was described as a woman who was abounding with deeds of kindness and charity, which she continually did. She had quite a ministry to widows and made them clothes and coats. They grieved her death so hard that Peter raised her from the dead.

These three fruits are of course produced in us through the Holy Spirit and that happens in us as a result of our growing relationship with Him. Because they are God's characteristics it is should be reemphasized that each of those character traits should be there whether the person or people we are relating to deserve it. Christ does not stop being kind, patient or good when we blow it or none of us would be here. We also want to remember that kindness and goodness does include confronting and working through conflict in a godly way. Many of us have behavioral patterns and defense mechanisms that have followed us from our pre-Christian days. As we listen to the Spirits guidance we will find more godly and mature ways of dealing with hurtful people that enhances relationships and helps us grow.

We need to let God change us from the inside out so that our actions and reactions are Godly and are representative of the character of God, especially when those people we are dealing with are difficult. We are to reflect the love of God towards them just as Christ did us. That can be very hard when we are facing someone who hates us. When that happens we want to stop and think about what it is that we desire the most. When the ugly and most hateful parts of our hearts rise to the surface we know that we don't deserve to be loved. Yet, that is when we long the most to have someone put their arms around us and tell us they love us. Christ has loved us like that and we are to be His living epistle and to extend that same love and goodness to others.

Is there relational fruit evident in our lives? Are we longsuffering with those people who get on our nerves? Are we gentlewomen not just in times of peace, but even in the face of confrontation and conflict? Are we good to those who don't deserve it? Again all of these characteristics will only be produced through the Holy Spirit; we cannot muster them up. Is there anything in our lives that might prevent His fruit from being evident in us? Are we willing to lay those things aside so others can see Christ in us and glorify God.

Prayer: Father, thank you for Your Holy Spirit and Your grace in producing Godly character in us that enhances our relationship with you and with other people. Help us to truly experience your love, joy, and peace so that we can show patience, goodness and kindness to others. Amen.

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Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!