“By contrast, 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 Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.” Galatians 5:22-25 (NRSV)
In Paul’s writing, there are two ways to live:
The first way of life is centered in the self.
The second way is life centered in God.
Paul calls the first way living by our fleshly desires. When we think of what that means, we usually think of our physical or bodily passions and desires (lust, greed, gluttony, etc.). What Paul means by “fleshly desires” is the total self - mind, spirit, body - turned in on itself, living without any thought or love for God. The mind can be “fleshly” too. This is why Paul includes “idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, and envy” (Gal. 5:20) as examples of living by our sinful desires. Paul tells us that Jesus has put to death our sinful ways of life and opened the way for us to live by the Spirit. The Spirit at work in us gives us the power to live a new life centered in God.
When “we live by the Spirit,” we demonstrate in our lives the fruit of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Gal. 5:22). These are simple but profound gifts that transform the human life and have the potential to transform the world. We see them not only in the great deeds of heroic people of faith, but in the large and small gestures of everyday life.
Nathan Foster has written a book titled The Making of an Ordinary Saint, in which he shares examples of his own life experiences, and in doing so, leads us to an understanding that we too are the saints whose lives manifest the fruit of the Spirit. We are ordinary saints of God and disciples of Jesus. On Sunday, November 1, we will celebrate All Saints’ Day, when we are reminded that God was with the faithful of the past, and we are assured that God is with us today, moving us and all creation toward God’s end in time.
Then during worship on November 22, we will dedicate pledge cards, another way we demonstrate the fruits of the Spirit in our lives. Our motivation for generous giving emerges from the power of realizing that life itself is a gift from God. The air we breathe; the water we drink; the love we share; the courage we receive, all of it comes from God. So the only fitting way to live in response is to live deeply grounded in the power of generous gratitude.
Yours in Christ,