But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. – Galatians 5:22-23
When we look at this beautiful list of attributes, we can only marvel and rejoice at the ways in which God’s Spirit works in our thoughts and hearts.
Christians are often seen as followers of rules: don’t do this and this and this. The Bible does makes clear there are certain behaviors which are wrong. God says we avoid those behaviors not by feeling guilty about them or constantly judging ourselves and others, but by replacing them with something better. We can try all we want in our own efforts and will, but only through the power of the Holy Spirit can we truly get rid of these old ways of doing and thinking. We are forgiven and redeemed, and now new things are happening inside us.
Love: The deepest care and affection. God’s relationship to us is defined by His love for us, to the extent that He wants to be with us always and works out everything for our best. We takes this by example to love Him in return, and expand that love to others.
Joy: The comfort and delight that comes from God’s love and grace for us. We are loved and forgiven, and God takes joy in us as well.
Peace: We are assured of God’s love and care in our lives, therefore we are content and can replace worries and anxieties with our trust in Him.
Patience: God has been patient with our failings, to the point of sending His son to take the punishment we deserved. When we are filled with love for others, we will respond in this same way. We are slow to judge or get angry, in fact we even find ways to care for whoever is causing us to get upset. We are also patient in all our circumstances, because we have the peace and joy of realizing God is directing our lives.
Kindness: Again, we are to reflect the kindness which has been presented to us through God’s grace. What God has shown and given to us, we are to bring to our relationships with others.
Goodness: Rightness, or righteousness. Our hearts and minds are filled with the virtue and mercies of God.
Faithfulness: Being full of faith, trusting fully. Yet even our faith is a result of the working of the Spirit, and He helps it to grow.
Gentleness: We have power and strength, but we deal with others and the situations around us with humility and compassion.
Self-control: Our desires and passions are not focussed on ourselves, but on loving and pleasing God. It might be called “self”-control, but it is only through the working of the Holy Spirit that our hearts and minds give up control and turn it over to God.
We are to follow the example of Jesus. But God knows we are frail and naturally inclined to go against these things, so He has given us the Holy Spirit to work in us, empower us, and to replace these old ways with new ways. The starting point is love, and all of the rest flow from there!