He was visibly shaking. It wasn’t from fear. He was furious. You see I had just stopped this very nice car because of a traffic violation right in front of me. As I walked to the driver’s side window, the man was shaking, he was so angry. “Do you know who I am? he asked. Actually, I was a new officer on the police force and I didn’t know who he was. But that wasn’t relevant. I asked for his driver’s licence and proof of insurance and told him why I stopped him. Then, he did something that shocked me completely; he started to drive away! I told him “Sir, I understand you are upset about being stopped, but I have all your information here and it won’t be difficult to find you and arrest you for failing to obey a lawful order.” At that, he stopped and I proceeded to write him a ticket for his original violation. Turns out he was on the city council.
Look at our lesson today in Galatians 5:22-26; 6:1-2:
Brethren, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law. 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 walk by the Spirit. Let us have no self-conceit, no provoking of one another, no envy of one another. Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Look to yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
This passage is so very helpful to us and should be one of the most familiar portions of St. Paul’s writings for all of us. And the main reason it is so important is because St. Paul shows us that the life of the believer is meant to bear the “fruit of the Spirit.” Now there’s something very important to know about fruit trees: Their fruit is the result of their nature. You are never going to see an apple tree in the yard “trying” to produce apples. That’s what apple trees do; they produce apples. And that’s what Christians do; they produce the “fruit of the Spirit.” It’s the natural and inevitable result of being connected to God. I don’t “try” to love. I love as a result of my focused purpose in being with God. It is the priority of my relationship with God that makes the “fruit of the Spirit” the natural result of this focused attention.
It’s when I’m not focused on this priority that I find myself scrambling to “try” to be loving, or peaceful, or patient, or kind…
And the results of this “trying” is usually short lived and not very effective. This is the very reason the passage ends with a phrase that I find absolutely fascinating: “the law of Christ.” You see, too many of us think of law as a set of rules we have to follow SO THAT we will be happy, or “legal,” or accepted. But that’s not how St. Paul means this here.
The Apostle to we Gentiles is trying to get us to move beyond the “law” of selfishness to the “law of Christ” which, like the law of gravity, is simple how a human is suppose to function in the first place. The law of Christ is about the realization that this is meant to change me from the inside out. I am meant to finally become truly human and not merely an existing shell of humanity. I am meant, by God’s grace, to finally stop rebelling against my true nature and embrace a selflessness that naturally produces love, and patience, and joy, and kindness, and so on.
But that won’t happen if I focus on being loving or kind or patient or good or gentle. It will only happen when I stop focusing on the fruit and focus on being the tree that produces the fruit. And that happens when I focus exclusively on the only human Who has ever been that “Tree of Life” in the first place – Jesus Christ!
Today, look at the “fruit” your life is producing. Examine it and inspect it. Is this who you really are? The best way to really discover the quality of the fruit your life is producing isn’t to compare your life to your neighbor’s life, but to compare your life to Jesus’ life. That’s the only way to know the “law of Christ” and to be Orthodox on Purpose.
P.S. Thank you so much for your kind words and your generosity. We have a goal for next year to encourage more people than ever to be Orthodox on Purpose. Toward that end, we need to raise $5000 to get our 2017 off to a good start and we are over halfway home toward our goal. If you want to help us, just go to our secure PayPal donation site and give today. Thank you.