Fruit of the Spirit, Part XI
Galatians 5: 16-21
What Happens when we Exercise our Rotten Fruit?
In Romans 12: 14-21, we are told how to treat others around us. The theme of the Sermon on the Mount is clearly echoed here in this passage. The call is to serve others as Christ has served us, and to treat others as Christ has treated us. This means the carrying out of love, grace, and understanding in all of our associations and then reacting as Christ called, not with our emotions. The attitude is not to judge, overreact, bow to our emotions, or to let other's malevolence get the best of us; rather, we are to allow the Spirit to flow in to us and out from us.
We also need to understand that if we follow Christ, we will gain enemies who will want to destroy us. When you earnestly serve the Lord, people will rise up against you! The exhortation given to us is not to overreact, rather seek kind solutions and pray for those who seek to harm us (Matt.5:10-12; Luke 6:28; 2 Tim. 3:12). Our temper must be under control, which means having a good emotional response, not making "wise cracks" or demeaning someone because they first demeaned or humiliated us. We are to see past the reaction of others and concentrate on how we act in response! We do this by referring our mindsets to God's justice and not our own, by allowing the covenantal work of God (Deut. 27:11-30:20) and not superimposing ours (this does not refer to breaking civil laws or causing abuse; such things involve the civil authorities!).
Other Christians will also come against us and attack. We must know that other Christians who are "apostate," (not living according to the Word, but according to their own desires, such as gossipers, and hypocrites) who are refusing to serve in their call will come and attack us the hardest when we honestly and faithfully serve the Lord! They do this because they are out of God's will, in order to make themselves feel good and satisfied, and to elevate themselves; they must bring godly Christians down. The Pharisees were the equivalent of apostate Christians in Jesus' time.
We know that Satan will attack us; we should expect it! Christians will also attack like the TV show, "when animals attack" (I could not resist this pun!) This is the one thing we do not anticipate happening, but it does. It is one of the sorriest and most pathetic things under the sun. It is also one of the most hurtful things on par with having a family member attack us. These attacks are rarely physical in nature, although I have observed many a fistfight in a church. The attacks are usually in the form of gossip, slander, legalism, and such. As many child psychologists suggest, verbal abuse is tougher to overcome than physical abuse. Many Christians fail to realize that our intrinsic value comes from Christ, not from what others say or do, so look to Him and all else will fall into place! However, we forget and we fight! So, churches fight and people leave, never to venture into another church again! Thus, we are to look at Christ as our Lord and example and not what other Christians seem to do to us. Our faith is in Christ, not in how we are treated in Church. However, we must always strive to do our best at treating others-even at church-with excellence in the way of the Fruit of the Spirit! If we can't do it at our "home," how can we do it in our personal homes and community?
Truth will divide, but it will also unite, so we have to find a way to retune our thinking to these challenging precepts of Scripture. If we have the opportunity to turn an enemy into a friend, then we must do whatever it takes to make it so. We do this by doing good to those who seek to do us harm! You can produce fruit to either nourish and impact others or hurt them (Rom. 1:28-31).
Our response to Satan is found in Eph. 6 and 1 Pet 5:8. Our response to our enemy, both secular and the apostate Christian, is to love them. (We are not to love Satan!) If you are in a role of hatred, the thing that hurts the most is someone coming to you in love! Conviction is very painful when we do not yield. We can identify with others with understating, compassion, empathy, and sympathy. We are to express the unity of Christ, so be involved with God's love to others (Luke 6:31)! We can live in harmony, meaning emptying ourselves of pride to allow the work of sanctification that brings humility and love, by respecting and sharing the same love and thoughts-togetherness (Phil. 2:1-8). It is about positioning ourselves in Christ, not in the ways of the world; being harmonious but not filled with self-conceit!
We can't allow our hurts to escalate and hurt others. Our revenge is to be loving, for this has the greatest sting! And, it has the greatest positive effect. When we turn an someone we do not like into someone we can have a positive relationship witha friend, we have won an incredible battle and prevented future war. We are to turn strife into an incredible blessing! Know this: God will allow your enemies to teach you, as an enemy may know you better than you know yourself. Thus, learn from their attacks. Learn, and grow in Christ.
Have you been hurt? Then, let it go and let God be the judge! He is God and knows the true motivation and circumstances of people, an attribute to which we do not have access. Thus, He will judge with the right amount of vengeance. Our vengeance is insignificant, unnecessary, and unlawful before God! Let God be God. In fact, we are called to go out of our way to associate with others who are different, even various races and classes. Real self worth and value is determined by who we are in Christ, not who we are in the world. Career, money, and power have their role, but when they become our identity, they are illusions made to convince us we are relevant and important; they are no comparison to what we have in Christ! How and what we think determines how we live and treat others (Prov. 3:7)!
We are called to do a difficult thing, to seek Christ and not our pride or the overreaction of our emotions. This is completely opposed to our fallen human thinking and culture, which is to pay back evil for evil. Yet, this is our first thought when something bad happens. It was the typical American thinking and desire to destroy Afghanistan after 9/11, but clear thinking prevailed-that there are millions of people who were innocent and victims of the same rulers and terrorists who attacked us. We must see that it is God's position and authority to exercise revenge; it is our role to seek peace and harmony, while at the same time to be discerning. Thus, it is good character to seek why it happened, find out the real problems, and then act, just as our government did. God even calls us to bless people who hate us! So, we have to find a way to retune our thinking to follow these challenging precepts of Scripture.
Christ has given to us all we need in order to grow!
Questions to ponder:
1. What is your first thought when something bad happens?
2. If you follow Christ, you will gain enemies who want to destroy you. So, have you personally experienced this?
3. How did peoples attack on you affect your faith? Did it build you stronger or cause you to flee?
4. Have you been hurt? How can you, let it go, forgive and let God be the judge?
5. What do you have to remove from yourself to allow God to be in control?
© 2000, 2009 R. J. Krejcir Ph.D. Discipleship Tools, www.discipleshiptools.org/