The Fruit of the Spirit #7 – Gentleness

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:16-25)

This word has the basic sense of “excellent,” or “useful.” Nuances include “orderly,” “healthy” (of food), “propitious” (offerings), “serious” (a wound or bite), “good” (experiences). It means moral goodness or integrity. It signifies not merely goodness as a quality, rather it is goodness in action, goodness expressing itself in deeds. It’s a kindly activity on their behalf. The word also has the idea of being teachable, not having a superior attitude, not demanding one’s rights.

We have a gentle God, who says “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29), who “like a shepherd will tend His flock, in His arm He will gather the lambs and carry them in His bosom; He will gently lead the nursing ewes” (Isaiah 40:11), and who “also given me the shield of Your salvation, and Your right hand upholds me; and Your gentleness makes me great” (Psalm 18:35).

We should “as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12), for “a gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1).

Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted” (Galatians 6:1). “Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom” (James 3:13). “Let your gentle spirit be known to all men” (Philippians 4:5a)

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The Fruit of the Spirit #6 – Goodness

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:16-25)

Goodness means uprightness of heart and life. It’s the quality or moral excellence of the good person. It’s a kindly disposition towards others. Other words for good are: morally excellent, virtuous, righteous, of high quality, excellent, right, proper, well-behaved, kind, honorable, worthy, educated and refined, genuine, reliable, dependable, not spoiled or tainted, cheerful, optimistic, free of distress, agreeable, pleasant, warm, sufficient, competent, skillfully, socially proper, loyal

God is the final standard of good, and that all that God is and does is worthy of approval. “And Jesus said to him, why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone” (Luke 18:19). Only God is good, none other. He is our stronghold in the day of trouble, as said in Nahum 1:7 “The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble, and He knows those who take refuge in Him“, and “O taste and see that the LORD is good; how blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!” (Psalm 34:8).

All that God gives in good for it is said that “every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17). We receive goodness from Him when we walk uprightly, for “no good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11b). We receive goodness from Him when we ask Him, for “how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:11). And we receive His goodness when we are disciplined by Him, for “He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness” (Hebrews 12:10).

We should imitate God’s goodness by doing good ourselves, doing what God approves. “So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith” (Galatians 6:10). We should “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you” (Luke 6:27b), and “do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it” (Proverbs 3:27).

We are strengthened by Paul’s words to the Romans when he says that “concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able also to admonish one another” (Romans 15:14). We have goodness in us through the grace of Jesus Christ.

The Fruit of the Spirit #5 – Kindness

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:16-25)

The dictionary definition of the kind says: “of a good or benevolent nature or disposition, as a person; indulgent, considerate, or helpful; mild; gentle; clement”. The Bible also talkes about kindness. The Greek word for “kind” or “kindness” is “chrestos” or “chrestotes” and can be defined as the virtue of the man whose neighbor’s good is as dear to him as his own. It also means fit, useful, pleasant, and manageable. It is used of wine which has grown mellow with age and lost its harshness. The same word is also used in Matthew 11:30, “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light“.

The Bible is all about relationship. Kindness is an expression of relationship. “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32), “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12). Each one of the qualities talked about in these passages express themselves in relationship. A significant measure of the Christian life is found simply in how we treat people and the quality of our relationship with them.

Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love” (2 Peter 1:5-7). Here Peter talks about becoming “partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust” (2 Peter 1:4). This doesn’t just happen; we have to be diligent (constant in our effort). We begin with faith which progesses ultimately into love. I think it’s interesting that brotherly kindness is second to last on this list, right before love.

So how do we extent kindness towards people? The Bible gives us many examples. “Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into the house; when you see the naked, to cover him; and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?” (Isaiah 58:7), “How blessed is he who considers the helpless; the LORD will deliver him in a day of trouble” (Psalm 41:1), “The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the LORD your God” (Leviticus 19:34).

One of the most famous examples of kindness is the story about the Good Samaritan. “But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him.” (Luke 10:33-34). This parable is told by Jesus in order to illustrate that compassion should be for all people, and that fulfilling the spirit of the Law is just as important as fulfilling the letter of the Law. Jesus puts the definition of neighbor into an enlarged context, beyond what people usually thought of as a neighbor. People, who were expected to help, didn’t, while someone, whom the victim (and Jesus’ audience) despised, did. The priest may have had an “excuse” not to help since touching a dying or badly wounded person for someone so “holy”, while not forbidden, would be, in our modern vernacular, distasteful due to all the necessary cleansing rituals prescribed by Mosaic Law. The priest therefore decided that being ritually clean and “priestly” was more important than saving someone else’s life. Jesus’ unspoken challenge to all seems to be: would we help only if it’s convenient, or are we willing to go out of our way to show compassion to a stranger?

How can we extent kindness more to people? Carry someone’s yoke, lighten someone’s burden. We can, but we first have to realize that we are “partakers of the divine nature”, and be constant in our efforts.

The Fruit of the Spirit #4 – Patience

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:16-25)

Who has patience nowadays? Who does not start zapping during the commercial break and patiently waits until it’s over? Who, as a pedestrian, still patiently waits for a red light? Who still practices patience when you are in a traffic jam or have to wait for public transport? Nonetheless, patience is something to strive for. It is a discipline that can be mastered. It’s a fruit of the Spirit. Patience is honored by God, for it says in Lamentations 3:25 “The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him“. We should “rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him” (Psalm 37:7a).

When we start something (anything — watching a movie on television, going to a specific place, either walking or by car or by public transport —) we should aim to finish it, because “finishing is better than starting. Patience is better than pride” (Ecclesiastes 7:8). It is like the farmer talked about in James 5:7-8 “Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near“. We should be patient so we can reap the full potential of our produce.

Think about Job. Everything that he had was taken away from him, except his wife. Even his health was taken away. Then, three of his friends came and constantly rebuked him for his wickedness, which, in their eyes, was surely the cause of his devastation. Still, Job said “Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity? In all this, Job did not sin with his lips.” (Job 2:10b). o Job patiently endured through his suffering, and in the end, God rebukes Job’s friends. Yet, despite all of the things that Job’s friends said about him, Job prayed for his friends and accepted them when they came to make offerings for forgiveness. Then the Bible says that, “The Lord restored the fortunes of Job when he prayed for his friends, and the Lord increased all the Job had twofold” (Job 42:10)

Patience should also be practiced when it’s not clear if we will witness the finish. It should be independent of it. The prophets were often given messages about Christ, and Peter says that they desired to know who and when this person would come. However, God revealed that this message was not for them. Yet, in patience, they continued to prophecy, knowing that they would never see the fulfillment of their prophecies. Also, the prophets suffered a lot of persecution from the people. Jesus mentioned in Matthew 5:12 that the prophets were persecuted. Not only that. God often made the prophets do crazy things. Just take Ezekiel for example! He had to lay on his left side in the middle of the city for 390 days, bearing the iniquity of the house of Israel! (Ezekiel 4:4-5)

One of the great examples of patience without witnessing the finish is found in Abraham. “And so, having patiently waited, he obtained the promise” (Hebrews 6:15). Abram was 75 years old when he received the promise from God that He would make Abram into “a great nation” (see Genesis 12:1-4, 7). In Genesis 15, Abram is specifically promised a son, and God makes a covenant with him to give the land of Canaan to his descendents. Abram was probably between 85 and 90 years old at this point (see Genesis 16:3 – Abram had already dwelt in the land of Canaan for 10 years). When Abram was 99 years old, God again appeared to Abram and promised to make him “the father of a multitude of nations” (see Genesis 17:5). God also gives him the covenant of circumcision and again promises the birth of a son – to be named Isaac – from his wife, Sarai, who is 90 years old at this point (Genesis 17:17). God also changes their names to Abraham and Sarah in this meeting. In Genesis 18, the Lord again appears to Abraham and promises that his wife Sarah will have a son (see verse 10). It does not say how old they were at this point, it only mentions that “Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; Sarah was past childbearing” (Gen 18:11). In Genesis 21 is the record of the birth of Isaac. The Bible records that “Abraham was one hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him” (Gen 21:5). So, Abraham was patient for at least 10-15 after receiving the promise of a son (Genesis 15) and for 25 years after receiving the promise to be made into a nation, while he was continuing to grow older and older! However, the promise mentioned in Hebrews 6:15 refers to a promise that the Lord made to Abraham on the mountain where he was going to sacrifice Isaac (see Genesis 22:15-18). The promise, in essence, is that God would bless Abraham and would multiply him greatly, and that Abraham’s descendants would possess the land of their enemies. (Also that all nations would be blessed through Abraham). We could say, that Abraham never saw the fulfillment of this promise, thereby showing great patience and trust in the Lord! While Abraham did find a wife for Isaac, he never saw Isaac’s children.