But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. – Galatians 5:22-23
This should be a pretty familiar pair of passages for all of us. Galatians is an important part of how Christianity evolved after Christ ascended. Paul had visited the churches in Galatia (potentially founded many of them, it is uncertain) and after he left he received word that some individuals had begun teaching an alternate gospel to the newly converted pagans. Paul’s gospel was based on Jesus’ ministry while these individuals were saying that the gentile Christians must conform to Mosaic law. Even while rebuking them he always does this in love. Paul boils down how Christians should act in to the fruit of the spirit.
Fruit, not Fruits
I do feel that it is important to highlight that Paul signifies that all of the fruit of the Spirit is singular. The word used in Greek was ‘karpos’ a word that meant fruit but also meant ‘that which comes from something’ or an ‘effect’. This is significant because we as humans produce sinful things. We produce works of the flesh. Paul is clear in saying ‘works’ of the flesh in Galatians 5:19-21 but when it comes to the Holy Spirit it is singular. There is one Holy Spirit, there are many humans therefore only the Spirit can produce the nine traits that are the fruit of it’s presence in us. Humans can produce all the works of the flesh but the traits of the Spirit are the result of it’s effect on us. I hope I made sense there!
The fruit of the Spirit are things we as Christians need to pray for. Those traits are how Jesus lives. Jesus instructs us to abide in Him because we cannot bear fruit without the vine (John 15:1-11). Jesus is the embodiment of those traits and the way we learn to bear the fruit we are commanded to is by seeking strength in God when we face adversity. I would be a liar to say I got this on lock, I don’t. I get irritated over small and likely trivial things. I feel terrible about it because I feel like a backsliding serpent of a man. Maybe it is all the noise in the house and I snap and yell at my kids. I shouldn’t do that but I have. It’s those things I ask God for strength so that I can work on them. He’s a good father and listens when I call out to Him. It takes more effort to be mean to someone than it does to be kind. I pray every day that God gives me strength to not get irritated at my co-workers and to show His Son through me. I talk openly about church and God because we should never fear offending someone just because we are Christian. My hope is that I represent a child of His kingdom in the most honorable manner I can and produce fruit for God’s will.
It is hard for anyone to always put themselves last in this world because many of us live in a society that often times thinks of themselves first even when we profess subjugation of our own will. It is a fault of man and one that we must understand and ultimately find peace with. As a man with a family that often means our desires are put to the side in lieu of others.
When Paul and Timothy were writing to the Philippians he encouraged them to show humility like Christ [Philippians 2:3-4] and that is something we should strive for.
It has not been easy for me and is it ever fully solved? No, but because I do want to be more like Christ I have to remind myself that I am second or third or fifth. Christ could have left us to our own demise and allowed us to fester and stay permanently separated from God but instead he made himself last. Last of every soul that has came, gone and will come. He chose to come down to Earth and live as we live. He chose to understand us more intimately than we could imagine and then even though we aren’t worthy he stepped between his father and said, “They are not perfect, they are not worthy but they could be. Not all hope is lost.”
Can we be that humble? Can I? It’s a question I strive to answer every day. I don’t get it right all of the time and I won’t. I don’t expect to. You can get it right some of the time too because we could be worthy. We can be worthy of God’s love. We can be worthy of the love of our wives or significant others. We can be worthy of the love of the children in our lives. We just have to try and to give up ourselves. Much like we should be doing when we take our journey to be more like Christ.
So how do we keep this mindset of being last without feeling hopeless?
Make a list either written or mental of the things you have done for others. See how it has impacted their life and admire the work you have done. It’s hard to see that sometimes but reminders are important so you don’t feel like you’re doing something in vain.
Wear something that professes that so you have a visual cue. One of my favorite things is a silicone bracelet I have from I Am Second and a friend asked me about the bracelet. I explained and then I gave it to him without thought. [2 Corinthians 9:7] The next week he had a different one for me that I wear daily.
Listen to your heart. Our mind often complicates things for us more than we would like. If you see someone in need, help them. [Proverbs 4:23] This was something I was happy to show Elijah (my favorite little boy in the world) one day when he was playing at the soft play area in the mall. There was a boy there that had taken one of his toys. Long story short the boy was autistic and when I asked him for the toy back his mother apologized profusely and gave me the toy. I sat down and put Elijah on my knee and explained to him that there are many toys in the world just like this one but maybe this toy was destined for the little boy. He understood what I was getting at and gave the toy to the little boy. The mom was thankful and almost in tears and I couldn’t be a more proud parent.
That is just a few ways we can keep on that path to being last and being happy. If Christ can give up everything including his life then surely we can give up some of us to enrich others. You never know how much a small act of selflessness can change someone’s world.