OK, everyone, let’s take a deep breath for a moment and confess: November is not our finest month. October doesn’t help by stuffing us with candy, pumpkin spice, and political advertising. November rises filled with the hope of celebrating the saints. Next, the votes of elections are tallied, which leads to parties or mourning. There’s a burst of healthy gratitude around Thanksgiving, and then it’s doused with consuming all the ads and leftovers of Black Friday. Now that December has arrived, hopefully most of us are recognizing the need for our Savior – which may actually be a great setup for the Advent season.
Advent is a great time to remember that just as all of creation waited for the birth of our Savior, the cosmos continue to yearn for the fruit of New Creation to be birthed. The things I’ve mentioned already are small compared to the suffering, the brokenness and the things that bind so many people and places today. Our world seems to get so excited over a deal on the hottest items of the season when, in reality, there are deeper needs for freedom and restoration that continue to be glossed over and unmet. There are thirsts that can only be quenched by Jesus-sourced love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
The key phrase is “Jesus-sourced.” These are not bad things inherently. Obviously, we’d love to have a world where more people would strive to be loving. A world filled with greater amounts of joy would put a smile on many faces. Peace is needed in so many areas and homes filled with conflict. You get the point without me finishing the list entirely – these are all good things. But Paul wasn’t proclaiming these things as a list of “desirable character traits.” He wasn’t trying to encourage citizens to form a smoother society.
Paul declares earlier in Galatians 3:26–27, “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” The next chapters continue to describe and give more reason for what God is doing. “God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts” (Galatians 4:6)
Imagine planting a giant fruit garden filled with seeds. You spend months preparing the garden, tilling the soil, planting the seeds. Sometimes it takes months and even years later before the fruit begins to arrive. It would be silly to stop and declare, “Wow, I’m so glad we brought all of this fruit into existence,” and then walk away. The whole point of bringing forth fruit, in our case, is that the world might taste and see God’s goodness and the New Creation life found in Jesus made possible by the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Let’s take just one fruit for an example to help us appreciate how each unique flavor of the Spirit’s fruit reveals Jesus in ways for which our world is thirsty. There’s one that might not be as obvious: gentleness. You might have seen the “golden retriever egg challenge” that was popular on social media earlier this year. Someone was trying to prove just how gentle a golden retriever’s mouth is by showing a video of a dog holding a raw egg in its mouth. In response, people all over were trying to prove how gentle their own dogs (of all breeds) are by shoving raw eggs in their mouths. Obviously, there are health concerns here, but the point is that even animals can be described by their “gentleness” at times (aside from all the dogs who simply ended up chomping down or playing with the raw egg – much to their owners’ dismay).
The great thing about gentleness is that it seems anyone can be gentle. It doesn’t require amazing strength, and it doesn’t require amazing weakness. We have video of our 2-year-old, Addison, holding her newborn baby sister. She was amazingly gentle with her, holding her with love while bending forward to kiss her face. This is the reaction most people would have when holding an infant. The sense is that something here in your arms is incredibly precious and worth being purposefully tender. Here is something that can be injured easily, and so it’s worth caring about our actions, how we speak and how we direct our energy.
Gentleness is just one of the many-flavored fruit of the Spirit for people who are alive with the life of Jesus. Gentleness means using our physical and verbal abilities to communicate that this person and this moment are precious and valuable to God. Doesn’t that seem to describe most of what comes to mind when you think about the life and words of Jesus Christ?
God With Us
We’re not hoping to bear the fruit of the Spirit simply to show that we have such character traits. It’s not about becoming people or families filled with such fruit for the fruit’s own sake. It’s about bearing the fruit of the Spirit for the sake of such fruit revealing, proclaiming and establishing the kingdom of God fully present right here and now. It’s about believing when this happens, Christ is here — not just inspirationally or figuratively, but literally. By the mysterious power of the Holy Spirit, the incredible-ness of the virgin birth is born again through our lives. This is not merely celebrating Christmas, but offering ourselves to be those through whom God becomes “Immanuel” in our world today.
Chadwick “Wick” Anderson has a B.A. in Youth Ministry from Olivet Nazarene University and an M.Div. from Wesley Seminary. He is currently in his final months as pastor of family life for Moundford Free Methodist Church in Decatur, Illinois. He is preparing to serve full time with his wife, Sarah, and their four children as missionaries in Gyor, Hungary, through Free Methodist World Missions. They believe in the power of open hearts and open homes, and you can discover more or join their support team at andersonfamily6.com.1