"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law." —Galatians 5:22 (ESV)
I can be about as patient as a two-year-old wanting more Cheerios at breakfast. It's a virtue that, for me, comes only after much practice and copious amounts of prayer. And even then, it's only the Holy Spirit's work within these dry impatient bones.
There are times when I lose all patience, and my reaction to a situation spirals into self-serving anger. It's during those moments I wonder if the Spirit really has any power over the old me at all. For, at base, I am a creature of force.
My Strength Is No Strength
In Paul's letter to the Galatians he emphasizes true Christian freedom because the Galatians fell under a false interpretation of it. After being duped into a lifestyle of law keeping, emphasizing works of the flesh, the Galatians ironically fell into a self-serving immorality.
The commentators remind us, "Our efforts to please God in our own strength result only in sinful behavior." The Galatians experienced this firsthand. Their sinful behavior festered in their personal relationships. They lived in danger of devouring one another through their biting and loveless interactions.
We think the law is so bad. By God, we want our Christian freedom, and now! But the law is less a list of do's and don'ts and more of a "way". The Hebrew idea of living by the law is walking in the way. John the Beloved often refers to this "way". And for John, he ate with, and talked with and lived with The Way. For it is Christ himself.
"I am The Way!" says Jesus.
Hell Pursuing, Spirit Living
And so when we fail to walk in The Way, we tend to walk another path—a path we think will lead to the good life. But that way crumbles into selfish immorality. Our self-producing godliness deceives us—we sleep our holiness away in the arms of other people, we destroy one another with our words and we trample each other under the force of our stride as we walk down the way of hell itself.
I feel hell biting at my heels when I act out of my impatience—it's like the Spirit evaporates from the room, replaced by the stench of a wayward morality.
Am I making too much of our relationships? I don't think so. How we treat one another is how we treat the rest of the world, a world searching for The Way. Our relationships form our families, form our friendship circles, form our communities and form our work environments. It all starts with how we treat our siblings and parents, our spouses and children and friends.
I want to walk in You, Oh Lord. For you are The Way. Help me stride with you as your Spirit works in me—producing the life-giving fruit rising from my ashes, and blooming into patience.
Stop over here and share an encouragement or insight on patience or another fruit of the Spirit.
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Timothy Willard is the author of five books, including Longing For More: Daily Reflections on Finding God in the Rhythms of Life and the forthcoming The Life-Giving Adventure of Chasing Beauty (Eerdmans, 2019). He has collaborated on over 20 books and has written, consulted and served as spiritual director for organizations such as Chick-fil-A, Catalyst, Q Ideas and Praxis Labs. When he’s not riding the trails in the Appalachian mountains you can find him by the fire with his three daughters and his wife making up stories about Tom the back yard badger. He lives somewhere in the south Charlotte woods.