Every Tuesday in August, ELCA pastors and leaders are sharing contemplative prompts for reflection and meditation. Today Andrew “Drew” Tucker, executive director of HopeWood Outdoors in Westerville, Ohio, shares his thoughts on Galatians 5:22-26:
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 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.
Living Lutheran: What does this passage mean in context?
Tucker: The church in Galatia was a church in conflict. Some thought that everyone needed to keep the law of Moses, especially circumcision, while others—following Paul’s teaching—saw the outpouring of God’s Spirit as the ultimate unifier across lines of difference. By the time readers get to these verses at the end of Chapter 5, Paul’s proclamation reaches a crescendo of grace. The fruits of the Spirit listed here indicate that there is nothing wrong with circumcision, so none should be judged for practicing it, and neither is there anything necessary about circumcision anymore, so none should be judged for not practicing it. Our life together in God is not about competition of who is more righteous but instead Christ-shaped compassion that makes space for the piety of all (so long as it doesn’t injure others, of course).
What does this mean for the modern world? What can we learn from this?
Christians today, including those of us in the ELCA, are also afflicted by this plague of competitive conflict. We forget that none of us are justified because of our behavior. All of us our righteous because God said so, first in creation and then in the re-creative work of Christ’s resurrection and outpouring of the Spirit. True, we’re no longer fighting about circumcision, but we sure do fight a lot, trying to prove we’re right by showing others just how wrong they are. Where is the fruit of the Spirit in that? Absent. What if, instead of condemning others for who they love, we found joy in the fact that they’ve found love, even a love that surprises us? What if, instead of using disagreement as a reason to cut off relationship, we found the peace of Christ with one another, even amid confusion? What if, when we don’t understand one another, we practiced patience rather than prejudice? These fruits born of the Spirit are certainly gifts, but like all gifts, we must practice them intentionally. This is Paul’s encouragement to the Galatian church, and it is surely an encouragement applicable for us today as well.
Can you share a meditation, prayer or journal prompt inspired by this Scripture?
Take some time today to journal, whether writing or typing, and reflect on these questions: In what situations do you see the fruit of the Spirit in your life? In what situations is it difficult for you to enact the fruits of the Spirit? Then commit to practicing these fruits in a particular area of life this week. After all, things can become habits after an intentional time of practice.