Dear Inspiration Seekers,
Paul writes the famous lines about “Fruit of the Spirit” in Galatians chapter 5. This is preceded by the acts of sin, for contrast. “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.” (5:19 – 20, NIV) I guess even that list is not comprehensive, “and the like”. Compare those to “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.” (5:22 – 23) which Paul quickly follows with “Against such things there is no law.” (5:23). The contrast that stood out to me in this reading, is not just the list, but the final concepts of “self-control” vs “the law”.The other contrast is that most of the sins are “acts”, while most of the “fruit” is “attitude”. Acts need sanctions, external controls, to limit them. Therefore, the law imposes limits on these behaviors. Sexual immorality would be constrained by the law to sexual expression with one’s marriage. Idolatry would be constrained to worship and rituals of correct religion. Hatred, etc. would be constrained by compromise and cooperation with antagonistic parties. Drunkenness would be constrained by advertising advocating “Drink Responsibly”. Hmmm, I wonder if our politicians are reading this…
Self-control, on the other hand, is a different concept. Rather than an external constraint, as in the law, the locus of control is internal. By voluntarily directing one’s freedom toward righteous acts, one might achieve the attitudes Paul describes. Paul does not list a do-gooders set of “righteous acts”. He does not say attend church twice a week, volunteer at the food bank, pay your taxes (and be sure to get credit for all our charitable contributions on Schedule A), arrive at work on time and be productive, spend time with your children, plant a garden and orchard, drive your neighbor to a doctor’s appointment. No, the closest he comes to this is to quote Leviticus 19:18 “Love your neighbor as yourself” (5:14). Freedom allows us to do many good things from many good options. The fruit is not the act, but the state of being that occurs because we chose good through self-control.
Until next time, Inspiration Seekers.
Hey, I think I set a record for brevity. Maybe I applied some self-control! 🙂