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Characteristics of Christian living

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Characteristics of Christian living

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” -Galatians 5:22, 23

One invigorating array is a bowl or platter of fresh fruit no matter the season of the year. The fruit speaks of health, vitality and refreshment. Fruit can provide us some healthy nourishment while fighting off a little hunger.

The spiritual virtues listed by the Apostle Paul in Galatians 5:22, 23 are labeled as the “fruit of the spirit.” This listing of virtues is significant within the contrasting context to the “works of the flesh” in Galatians 5:18-21.

Verses 19-21 in the New Living Translation (NLT) read: “When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.” It is a good indication that one exhibiting these traits is not driven by the Holy Spirit, but is driven by the sinful fleshly nature (Romans 8:6).

History has shown us that external laws enacted to prohibit and penalize people have not solved the problem of humanity’s sinful nature and inclinations. These laws are absolutely necessary for encouraging and sustaining a civil society. However, humanity’s greatest need is not for restrictive external controls, but for an inward transformation to express a revived soul.

Scripture, therefore, does not hold out any enduring hope in solving the human condition and the problems it creates through external laws and controls. The Scripture teaches the necessity for people to develop internal spiritual controls to help overcome evil inclinations.

The nine virtues listed as the fruit of the spirit are qualities produced by the transforming work of the Holy Spirit within a person. Interestingly this list begins with love and concludes with temperance. Love is a sacrificing of self-centeredness in one’s attitude and actions toward God and people. Temperance is self-control or the restraining of oneself.

Starting the list with love and ending it with temperance is not incidental but intentional. Here’s a reason why. The expression of these character qualities is primarily motivated by love, the principal virtue and driving force of Christian living (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). These character qualities are also maintained through temperance, the sustaining virtue, whereby one keeps it together and stays in control to express those virtues.

These two separate virtues are placed close together resulting in a new relationship between them. Love and temperance act as bookends. As bookends, they reinforce one’s genuine display of the remaining virtues.

Bookends support and hold all the books in between them together. But what happens when one of the bookends is removed? Everything in between falls apart and generally goes everywhere; there is rarely a linear fall like dominoes. There is no cohesion when the books fall, it’s more like a chaotic mess — everything that was once held all together is now scattered everywhere.

Thus in relation to the fruit of the spirit, the seven virtues — joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, and meekness — are able to be expressed in great extent in a person’s life when supported by love and temperance.

For persons living by the law of the spirit and exhibiting the fruit of the spirit, there is no external restrictive law against them (Galatians 5:14, 23). As so, there is no need for a system of law to rule or restrain one living under the law of the Spirit — love. There is no need for any external control to produce right attitudes resulting in right behavior. That’s why the law is reserved for the lawless (1 Timothy 1:9, 10).

When we allow the Holy Spirit to cultivate our character, we become a transformed people providing life-giving refreshment from expressing the fruit of the spirit.

Rev. Johnson A. Beaven III is pastor of Citadel of Faith Church of God in Christ. Contact him via email at jabeaven@gmail.com or Twitter @jbeaven.

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