But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things.Galatians 5:22-23 NLT
I’ve started noticing a trend with some (not all or even most) Christians, especially male Christians, and even more specifically male Christians who would consider themselves “culturally engaged” or taking on cultural ideologies that conflict with Biblical principles and moral standards found in the Bible.
That trend is this…any time someone (like myself) mentions that we as believers need to love others better (not just those within the church, but also those outside of the church) and be kinder, more patient, and more gentle with people…there seems to rise up from the ranks of the individuals I mentioned above an immediate defensive posture, and their responses come across as almost a disdain for what is being said.
For example, back on December 29th I had posted something to social media called 10 Things the Next Generation is Looking for in a Local Church Body which included the following:
- A community they can identify with.
- A loving community who loves on and reaches out to the community around them – no strings attached (they don’t don’t reach out for the sole purpose of growing their church attendance).
- A church that is honest and transparent about their faults and not afraid to say, “I don’t know”.
- A safe place to ask hard questions and bring their doubts and fears without judgment.
- A sincere love for one another and others outside of their community.
- Leadership that truly loves the ones they lead.
- Leadership that hears and listens to the ones they lead.
- A body of people they can respect and trust.
- An older generation they can look up to and let pour into the lives of their children.
- An older generation that loves the younger generation and sincerely wants to see them succeed in life, faith, and in love.
And no sooner had I posted that list of 10 things, did I get a comment immediately telling me that this individual didn’t want to go to a church that didn’t practice biblical church discipline or preach against sin. That they didn’t want to go to a church to feel comfortable. That they didn’t want to go somewhere where they, quote, “come as you are and leave as you came as long as the music is good and I saw my friends”.
If this was the first time I’ve seen such a response on social media to things like what I posted, then I would’ve been taken aback a little. But sadly, I’ve seen this happen entirely too much, almost to the point where this is becoming more of the normal response I see from “long time believers” who are “in the fight to win the culture”.
My response to this individual, and to others like them is simply this…when did the fruit of the Spirit become trigger words for Christians?
Are we so angry with the culture around us and how they have handled words like love, kindness, respect, honor, gentleness, patience, etc. that we can no longer hear those words without assuming that anyone using those words doesn’t truly understand the Biblical application of those words?
Why do words like love, kindness, gentleness, and patience…all things that Paul told us in Galatians were the product of the Holy Spirit living in us and producing in us the character of God….why do these things send some over the moon and back again in rage and anger?
If anything, I would argue that these kinds of responses are the exact opposite of the Fruit of the Spirit and come from a fleshly place of arrogance, pride, anger, hurt, legalism, and a whole slew of other things that are born in the sinful depths of mans heart.
But I don’t know their heart…like truly know their heart. But their actions and responses cause me to wonder about or question these things.
Now, for many of these individuals that I have personally interacted with, I can say that they are concerned heavily with people rejecting the law of God and calling good evil and evil good (Isaiah 5:20), and are rightly concerned that people do not truly understand these terms. And many do not. That much is true. But many do.
What I have witnessed is that often they lean on passages like 1 Corinthians 13:6 which says that love “does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth” and then argue that the most loving thing a person can do is tell someone the truth.
All the while, it feels like they may be overlooking the first 3 verses of that very same chapter which tells us that we can say and do all sorts of supernatural and true things…but without love we are clanging cymbals.
So my question is, why are these words so triggering to some folks?
Why would something that should resonate with the Spirit living in and through us cause some to respond with what appears to be outright vehemence toward the fruit of…well…the Spirit?
It could be one thing…it could be a multitude of things…and we could sit around and speculate all day about what triggers these individuals without truly knowing the answers. But I’m not so sure that this is beneficial for anyone, not the least of which is those who are responding this way….nor am I sure that at this point many of these folks even know what is causing them to be triggered by these words.
Perhaps the best way forward is to acknowledge that there are some who will get triggered… those who claim to have the Spirit living inside of them who ought to be producing these very things in and through them….and to continue to demonstrate to them and others the meaning of these words and what it looks like to live these words, and let God do what He will do inside of them.
Only God can soften them. This isn’t my place. I am not God.
I’m not the Holy Spirit so it is not my place to convict either.
You and I can control only one thing…the way we personally respond.
So, when we are faced with those who seem to take issue with our encouragement to others to fully embrace and put on display the Fruit of the Spirit let us respond with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.