...the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another.
Now, today is Father’s Day, when I’ve often used this time to talk about my dad who has played a pivotal role in shaping my faith. But I’d like to honor another father who taught me how to use this faith with purpose and meaning. He was an Irish immigrant named Vince who embodied these nine qualities like it was a second skin.
Before we go there, I want to point out that Paul used the singular tense, fruit, not fruits, to describe the actions of the Spirit. This tells us that they’re not independent but interconnected.
Moreover, they’re not our actions but are the Spirit, who works through us.
It’s like a bowl of fruit salad, where you put watermelon, pineapple, strawberries, and other fruits into one bowl to make one meal. For the record, my father-in-law would have a good joke about me comparing him to a bowl of fruit salad.
Starting with the last fruit on this list, Vince embodied SELF-CONTROL. Unlike the horrific stereotypes of Irish men, he didn’t drink or fight. He never lost his composure when faced with a tough challenge. Even in the most difficult moment of His life, Jesus also exercised great self-control. He possessed the power to end his suffering, but instead Jesus stayed focused on the job he was sent to do.
Self-control helps us from getting run over by life’s challenges. It keeps us rooted in what is right. And prevents our desires from leading us astray from doing God’s will. And it also produces GENTLENESS, the next fruit in our salad.
Although he was a big man, with an even bigger personality, Vince was a very gentle human, with a tender and mild disposition. From the way he cradled his grandchildren to how he treated his employees, Vince always showed forgiveness and grace over anger and revenge.
Much like Christ who said, "I am gentle and humble of heart," Vince never insisted on having his own way but often yielded to others.I think this spiritual fruit is often ignored because it makes us seem vulnerable and weak.
By watching Vince closely, I learned the strength of gentleness, especially as it reveals our FAITHFULNESS, a spiritual fruit that helps us live our life in accordance with God's will at all times. Jesus did this to a fault, even when it costs him his life.
If you knew Vince, then you knew he wore his faith on his sleeve much like Jesus did – not in a pious way, but in the many ways he helped others.
Because of his faith, people could depend on Vince and trust he would always do the right thing. That’s how he was faithful to what God was calling him to do. As I’ve stated before, “Church is a verb. Faith an imperative. Christianity an action.” Christ gives us the Holy Spirit to help us remain faithful to these tasks.
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I think Paul gives us this list so people will know our faithfulness by the fruit of GOODNESS we produce.
As Benjamin Franklin said, “One does well by doing good.” If that’s so, Vince did really well. A good father. A good husband. A good brother, uncle, and friend. The examples of his goodness are way too long to go through, but if you can think of a good deed, there’s a good chance Vince did it.
Summarizing Jesus’ ministry Peter stated, "Jesus Christ of Nazareth...went about doing good” (Acts 10:38). That was Vince who never took his eye off the One who describes himself as, “the Good Shepherd who gives His life for the sheep" (c.f. John 10:11-18).
We’d all do well by taking Paul’s advice to imitate the goodness of Christ who constantly revealed God's glory and grace in the world through the Spiritual fruit of KINDNESS (c.f. Philippians 2:3-8)
Kindness is a kind of holy sacrifice; a willingness to give to others above and beyond what we own them. Jesus was the poster child of kindness. Healing, feeding, and forgiving others without ever asking for anything in return. On the night he was arrested, Peter cut off the ear of the high priest's servant. Instead of worrying about himself and what’s to come, Jesus reacted with kindness and compassion; immediately healing the man who was taking him to his death.
Although Vince trained as an Army medic, I don’t recall hearing any stories like this. But countless times I witnessed true kindness in the way he cared for “the least of these.” The homeless, the widows, the orphans, the in-laws like me.
If you met Vince, you were met with kindness, that at times ame with a lot of PATIENCE – an often-overlooked spiritual fruit. I asked Kathleen to describe her father’s patience. She said, “He listened, didn’t rush to judgment, gave you the benefit of the doubt. He was very good about making sure you were heard.” Are these not Christlike qualities?
Jesus always exercised great patience with his disciples. Always quick to show God's mercy and grace. Paul wrote, “I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him.” (1 Tim. 1:16)
We have all benefited from Christ’s immense patience, haven’t we? One such benefit is receiving Christ’s PEACE – the spiritual fruit of wholeness and completeness that comes from knowing God’s love for us. Jesus is the incarnate promise of God’s love, the perfect peace made visible to us.
In many ways Vince a peaceful man. he showed God’s love in such a way that made you feel like everything would be alright. As a father of nine, he knew what it meant to be a peacemaker. Whenever he caught the children fighting, he’d make the hold hands and sing, “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me...”
Like most parents discover, when there is peace in the house you rejoice. The that’s because in this fruit salad, peace and JOY co-exist as one. More than a feeling of great pleasure and happiness, spiritual joy is a state of being undisturbed by the negative things in life once you realize God's grace and love for you.
Growing up in a poor farming village in Ireland, Vince knew the difficulties of life. He knew struggle and suffering and sacrifice. He may not have had the luxuries that his children enjoy today, but he was rich in ways most of us could only hope for. Vince’s joy was not dependent on his circumstances, but on what God’s love and grace had done for him.
No matter what space he found himself in, Vince always brought joy with him to share. Always quick with a smile. And even quicker with a joke or a song. Always with love in his heart to give away. Jesus told His disciples that his joy will remain in them, and it will never run out (John 15:11). My father-in-law took that to heart, because that joy stayed within him to the very end.
The joy Christ gives us comes from God, whose steadfast LOVE for us is the first fruit of the Spirit. Love is God. God is love. God’s love created us. And God’s love has saved and redeemed us.
Just as branches of a tree or a grapevine have to be connected to the trunk in order to bear grapes or apples, we are connected to God’s love through Christ who gave away this fruit as if it could never run out.
Thus, Jesus tells those who follow his way, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments and I will abide in you” (John 14:15).
“This is my commandment” he said, “that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:34).
When Jesus told them, “There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for his friends” (John 15:13), our Lord went on to show us what that means for us today; setting aside our own desires, to follow God’s will and way.
Just as God shows love to us, we too are called to love one another – without condition, or any thought of receiving something in return.
So, it is in the sacred space of Anamesa we must always keep our focus on Christ Jesus who said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
Between the fruit and the vine, the Holy Spirit moves in us and through us allowing Christ’s light to shine among us so the world can see what God’s love looks like. And give God all glory.
This Advocate is a great gift given to us. With it, we can do anything Jesus did, and so much more. Whatever space you find yourself in today, keep your heart and mind open to follow the Holy Spirit who leads you along the pathway of God’s righteousness.
Because, like Paul would come to understand, “all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God” (Romans 8:14).
As God’s children it’s up to us to go out into the world to bear the fruit of God’s Spirit love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
This is how we church and co-exist as one family; living, and loving in this heavenly fruit salad that we called life.
An ex-copywriter turned punk rock pastor and peacemaker who dedicates his life to making the world a better place for all humanity.
"that they all might be one" ~John 17:21
“Prius vita quam doctrina.”
~ St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
* “Life is more important than doctrine.”