The 'Fruits of the Spirit'
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Should being a Christian make a noticeable difference?
Picture, God
Yes! It's fundamental to the Christian belief that God made the universe and everything in it, including us humans. He intended us to be in a perfect relationship with him and with each other and he gave us free will to choose that, but it's easier to choose a less perfect way of behaving, acting in disobedience of God rules, and it's that disobedience that we call 'sin'. Christians believe that it is this disobedience of God intention that brings about the misery and suffering we experience in our world because people put themselves first rather than working together for the greater good of all. Those who work together usually find it a more rewarding experience then when they press for their own advantage. (Return to top)

God himself is perfect, so sin separates us from him like a naughty child is temporarily separated from its parents. Just as a caring parent only maintains that separation for a while, then makes the relationship good again, so God himself put right our soured relationship with him by coming to earth as Jesus. It's through his sacrifice of himself on the cross in substitution for us as 'sinners' that we are forgiven and restored to a good relationship with God again, as he originally intended. (Return to top)

When he had completed his work on earth, Jesus ascended back to heaven, but before he went he said he'd send a 'Comforter' to continue to support and teach us. That Comforter we know as God's own spirit which we consequently call the 'Holy Spirit'. When we're baptised as a Christian, the Bible reveals that the Holy Spirit actually comes to dwell within us to support and guide us. As a result of the Holy Spirit's support, a well-balanced Christian shows a noticeable difference in the way they live their life compared to others, more content, more gentle and less self-centred, because the Holy Spirit helps us to behave in ways more like God intended. We call those changes the 'Fruits of the Spirit'. (Return to top)
Love
Cartoon, Image of Love
In his first letter to the people of Galatia, Saint Paul writes, "But the fruit of the (Holy) Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." (Galatians 5:22). As we might look into a mirror to see what we actually look like, so we look into the 'Word of God' to see what we should spiritually look like. Loving someone is not the same as liking them - Jesus said "Love your neighbour as yourself" (Luke 10:25-28), he meant we should love everyone indiscriminately as God loves us, even though we may disobey or reject him. "Love your neighbour" doesn't mean we have to like them, but we must show the principle of Christian love to everyone equally, even if they reject us. (Return to top)

'Love' feels no burden, attempts what is beyond its strength, and thinks all things are possible. It isn't afraid of ridicule or negative response. As Christians we have to do this whatever the cost (Jesus paid the ultimate cost to reconcile us back to God - he was rejected and suffered a cruel death nailed to a cross). Love for God, ourselves and others is central to the Christian faith and comes from God himself, delivered to us every day by his Holy Spirit, so Love is a 'Fruit (result) of the Spirit'. (Return to top)
Joy
Image of Joy
It's when we love and care for others that we experience the joy of life for ourselves that God intends. As 'Love' isn't the same as a good nature, so 'joy' isn't the same as jollity. The Christian faith isn't about jollity, it's about 'joy'. Happiness is affected by external circumstances, 'joy' is about an inner belief and tranquillity of life. We can be well and wealthy - but miserable, or we can be ill and poor - yet have the 'Joy of the Lord'.

The opposite of joy isn't gloom, but disillusionment. To enjoy Christian joy we need to hold fast to the knowledge that we're not alone, God's plans for us are good and are succeeding - because Jesus made reconciliation for our disobedience of God's rules when he was raised from the dead, so we will we be raised from the dead to eternal life with God too. We sometimes forget this, eg: in times of hardship, when joy can slip, but that's when God gets alongside us through his Holy Spirit to remind us, so Joy is a 'Fruit of the Spirit'. (Return to top)
Peace
Image of Peace
It's when we show caring Love to each other as God intended that we find the Joy he intended for us, and as a consequence we find 'Peace' - not a lack of noise but inner peace or contentment. In his letter to the Romans, Saint Paul says we find such peace 'through our Lord, Jesus Christ'. There are many references to to this inner peace in the Bible. For instance, in the Gospel according to John Jesus said 'Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you'(John 14:27). (Return to top)

The Disciples weren't to be left alone, and neither are we because as a Christian we have God's Holy Spirit personally with us. When the Disciples were in a room after Jesus' death, where they had gathered in fear of the Jewish authorities - they were not 'at peace' but then Jesus appeared and immediately calmed them with his greeting 'Peace be with you'. He breathed on them and said, 'Receive the Holy Spirit' - which is why it's sometimes referred to as 'The Comforter' (John 20:21). It's God who gives us his peace through his Holy Spirit if we'll accept it - hence Peace is a 'Fruit of the Spirit'. (Return to top)
Faithfulness
Image of Failthfulness
Once we've decided to follow Jesus it doesn't get any easier, there are always temptations to turn back to sin. But we're not alone, the Bible has several examples of the faithlessness of Jesus' own disciples. For instance, Jesus was betrayed by one of them - Judas Iscariot - and another, Peter, denied knowing him three times despite claiming that he would always be faithful (Matthew 26:69-75). (Return to top)

Another example is the 'Parable of Talents' told by Jesus. Three servants who were given money by their master to look after while he was away on business. Two of them used their skills(talents) to grow their share but the third buried his share in the ground for safe keeping and returned just the same amount he was given. Jesus said the third servant was lazy, he could at least have put the money on deposit with bankers to gain interest - he was therefore a faithless servant. (Matthew 25:14-30). Do we use the gifts God's given us to help grow a better life for all here on earth, or do we do nothing with them? Faithfulness is less glamorous than heroism, but is called on more frequently. God's Holy Spirit, which comes to us at baptism, helps us to keep faithful to God, so faithfulness is a 'Fruit of the Spirit.' (Return to top)
Self-Control
Image, Self-Control
If we are to remain faithful to God and his intentions for us to love him and each other we need to exercise self-control. God created us with beautiful bodies, but we need to keep them under control if we're to allow the Holy Spirit to work properly within us. Saint Paul said in his letter to the people of Corinth, 'Train with the focus of an athlete to win the race, disciplining your body to make it your slave rather than the other way round - you should not be the slave of your body"' (1 Corinthians 9:24-27). (Return to top)

Saint James said, 'keep control of your tongue' (James 1:26-27), and again Paul said, 'Everything is permissible but not everything is beneficial' (1 Corinthians 10:23). Don't compare yourself against others but against Christ, do everything so it's acceptable to Christ. A new baby survives by being self-centred, but as it grows up it becomes aware of the support it gets from others and the support and the support it can give to them. As members of society we need to learn discipline. A final quote from James and Paul - James 3:2, 'We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault... he is a perfect man' and Galatians 5:16 'Live by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.' Self-control is therefore a 'Fruit of the Spirit' and all such 'fruits' are signs of a good Christian. (Return to top)