Removing Pressure: Fruits of the Spirit
Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Whether you grew up in Sunday school or not, you likely know what these are. The fruits of the Spirit are listed in Galatians chapter 5 as characteristics that show up in the life and character of a person who believes in and follows Jesus.
These fruits are often held up as a high standard to meet, but over the years I’ve seen that they’re much more attainable than I ever realized. In everyday life we can represent God well by welcoming His Spirit to freely engage with us throughout the day and listening for His suggestion to do something differently than instinct prompts us.
As Christians, we want to represent Jesus well, right?
Scripture tells us to aspire to be like Jesus. It isn’t a futile goal, rather it is a Scriptural encouragement because Jesus exemplified what it looks like to live in the Spirit and represent God well. But it can be so easy to get caught up in showing all the fruits of the Spirit all the time that we just give up on trying to have any of them.
The idea of perfection can quickly paralyze us and convince us that trying is futile, but perfection isn’t the point. Our call as Christians isn’t to be perfect, it is to love and represent our perfect Creator. If we were perfect, we wouldn’t recognize our need for God. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.’” (English Standard Version)
Our weakness and lack of perfection is where God steps in and His grace can shine. Our call isn’t to be perfect, it is to pursue God, allowing His Holy Spirit to help us behave and respond more like Jesus. And that is where the fruits of the Spirit come in.
When you spend time with someone and start really getting to know them, you start to pick up on their habits and characteristics. For instance, my husband has this funny habit of responding, “Aw yeah?” to questions or comments that he agrees with. Overtime I started saying it to mock him, but now I say it sincerely without meaning to. What was once an aspect of my husband’s personality has now become a part of mine, simply because we spend time together and talk to each other a lot.
That’s all the fruits of the Spirit are.
They aren’t a big list of rules you have to follow or goals you have to attain, they are characteristics of the Holy Spirit that you will begin to adapt as you spend more time with Him. It isn’t about some legalistic idea that makes you feel guilty when you don’t meet all the standards, it’s about living with God, spending time with Him and talking to Him. Eventually, without even realizing it, you’ll begin picking up some of His habits.
You don’t have to keep a list of the fruits of the Spirit on the wall and check off each one that you exhibited at the end of each day. You just spend time with God and welcome Holy Spirit to come along throughout the day, giving Him permission to interrupt you. You’ll find yourself in situations where His response rubs off on you.
When the cashier at the grocery store is rude and you want to be rude back, you’ll notice yourself instead responding like your friend Holy Spirit, with kindness and gentleness. When a family member disappoints you or expresses something they’ve done wrong, your old response might have been criticism, but you find yourself behaving like God would behave, with love. When you’re alone and tempted to watch that video or go to that website, you’ll find yourself instead wanting to respond like Jesus, with self-control.
The fruits of the Spirit shouldn’t be a place of shame for Christ-followers, they should simply be a list of characteristics about the God we love. Characteristics we deeply admire and want to adapt in our own lives, not out of guilt or fear, but out of admiration and proximity.
Instead of thinking that you have to possess and show all the fruits of the Spirit in order to be a “good” Christian, what if you started believing that spending time with God will welcome the fruits of the Spirit in your life? The more time you spend with God, the more you get to know His personality and intentions, the more you will see how truly incredible He is and His habits will begin to show up in your life. The fruits of the Spirit shouldn’t elicit pressure and guilt, but are instead meant to invoke admiration for the God who created and loves us.
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.