Christian character is not mere moral or legal correctness,
but the possession and manifestation of nine graces.
Imagine this with me…
You’re driving through town and you see a woman walking along the side of the road toward the grocery store (let’s say that’s your assumption). She’s pushing a baby carriage with an occupant down the bumpy verge and two small boys, less than five years old, are walking ahead of her. Do you stop and offer assistance? Do you reason that she’s not all that far from the store (forgetting that she has to get back also) and probably doesn’t need your help? Do you reason that you’re in a hurry and on some important errand? Do you think, “With all the craziness that’s going around now, she’ll refuse help anyhow.”?
How about this one…
This is the umpteenth time this has happened. You’ve told that little devil to walk through the house or he’s going to break something and the prophecy is always fulfilled. Again he has run unheeding through the house, but this time he broke (your college MVP trophy, your world’s best mom mug, grandma’s urn) and that IS IT! Do you knock his head off like you’ve promised a few times before? Do you grab the little scamp and tan his hide? How about you just let it go because you’re such an understanding parent? Maybe you discipline him, but not until your anger cools a little? Is it time for a timeout?
Just one more…
You’re walking to your car on which you have proudly placed a “Vote, blah, blah, blah” sticker (the blahs being your favorite candidate’s name or phrase). A small crowd (from five to five hundred) has gathered around your car and are in the act of tearing off the offending piece of paper along with your bumper apparently. You walk up and politely ask, “What the (h-e-double hockey sticks) is agoin’ on here?” One protestor gets right in your face and voices their opinion of you, your parents down to the fifth generation and your dog. Do you again politely explain where they’re in error? Attempt to reach his spine through his stomach? Walk away and get in your car? Maybe you give that protesting piece of humanity a loving hug. What’s your reaction?
We all face difficult situations and dilemmas every day. How do we respond? Is there some guidance on how we should respond? How many times do you turn the other cheek anyway? We only have two.
There is a bit of scripture that deals well with what our Christian reaction should be to any situation. Here it is:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,//longsuffering, goodness, gentleness,//faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. Galatians 5: 22,23
I split the nine “graces” into groups of threes for a reason.
I have a Scofield study Bible, a preference I inherited from my dad which he inherited from his. I haven’t always agreed with Mr. Scofield, but I agree much more than the opposite. He is the author of the “seed” for this entry.
He splits the fruits of the Spirit into three categories and I like the symmetry.
- Character as an inward state: love, joy, peace – we experience each of these and when we experience them ourselves we can then show them and give them to others.
- Character in expression toward man: longsuffering, goodness, gentleness – we have no idea what the other guy (or gal) is going through. But, despite their issues, how they present themselves to us, we can, through Christ (Philippians 4:13), mirror something better that shows Whose we are.
- Character in expression toward God: faith, meekness, temperance – our faith in God allows us access to Him; our humility puts us in right standing with Him; our temperance, or “moderation” to “all men” (Philippians 4:5), allows us to “live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18).
But is this how we respond? Hopefully more and more as we grow in Christ. Hopefully as in John 15:1-8 in which we “bear fruit”, are purged so that we “bring forth more fruit” and then abide in Christ (and He in us) so that we bring forth “much fruit” in which “My Father [is] glorified.”
Woe to us if we bring forth “wild fruit” (Isaiah 5: 1-7) or abide not in the Vine (John 15:6).
The answers to the three scenarios (as I see them):
- Goodness – stop and offer them a ride, then after you have gone “a mile, go with [her] twain” (Matthew 5:41) and wait until she is ready and give her a ride back to her house.
- Gentleness – of course there needs to be discipline if it was promised. Proverbs 13:24 says, “He that spares the rod hates his son: but he that loves him chastens him betimes.” But undue or overdone discipline provokes a child to wrath (Ephesians 6:4; Colossians 3:21).
- Love, meekness – this one would be difficult for anyone. It is probably better to just get in the car and say nothing so that you can “live peaceably with all men”.
Increasing in this fruit, in these graces, is a lifelong becoming. It requires some patience on the part of the Lord, some pruning and some love. It’s not an easy process, but, as with all sanctification, growing closer to Christ is worth it.