October Reading from The Message
In his letter to the Galatians, Paul is emphatic about the free life we can live because of Christ. It is not the cheap freedom that is often celebrated by the world. But a freedom that allows you to serve others without being burdened by the compulsions of selfishness. A freedom that will slowly bear fruit.
19-21 It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on.
This isn’t the first time I have warned you, you know. If you use your freedom this way, you will not inherit God’s kingdom.
22-23 But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.
23-24 Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way. Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good—crucified.
25-26 Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original.
There’s Far More to Our Lives Than We Bring
Fruit is the result of a long, organic process. This process is complex and intricate. Fruit isn’t something made, manufactured, or engineered. It isn’t the product of drawing boards or committee meetings or sophisticated technologies. It isn’t the invention of human genius. And spiritual fruit is the result of a life of faith that is both germinated and nurtured by God’s Spirit.
People who live a life of faith often find fruit appearing in unlikely places and at unanticipated times. That is, we find that there’s far more to our lives than we bring to them. We don’t produce fruit by our own efforts. We don’t purchase it from someone else. It isn’t a reward for doing good deeds, like a merit badge, a gold medal, or a blue ribbon. It’s simply there.
But just as the fruit we eat is perishable, the fruit of the Spirit is also perishable. It’s beautiful to observe, but it can’t be kept on display for long. It must be shared with others—eaten and digested—or else it will spoil.
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