Ministry Musings: Parallel the Fruit of the Spirit

A third fundamental practice in discernment is to align it with the fruit of the Spirit.  God’s will never violates love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).  As Paul says it at the end of the list: none of these is “against the law.”

For reasons I will never completely understand, there are times when the “fine details” of God’s will remain hidden.  We simply do not know for sure whether a particular thing is the will of God…or not.  And as we have already seen in these posts, sometimes God’s will is not narrowed down to only one thing.

In such moment, the fruit of the Spirit is one of our great allies.  We can always ask these kinds of questions,”Does this action promote love?” (or one of the other fruit).  If we can say, “Yes, it does,” we are on safe ground for moving ahead.

I’ve chosen to frame this post in relation to love to make the additional point that sometimes there must be “tough love.”  We live in a time when we only accept affirmations as truthful.  Denials are deemed bigoted, intolerant, or judgmental.

But even though this can be true, it is also true that sometimes the most “loving” thing we can do is to stand against something.  Paralleling the fruit of the Spirit does not always mean being “nice.”

Admittedly, this is difficult, and we will not always get it right.  But we must not forget that while alignment with the fruit of the Spirit is our aim, the setting in which we must do this may call for an expression of the fruit which is challenging.

Nevertheless, as we practice discernment, we always want to do it in relation to these nine dimensions of life, which in the final analysis, reflect the character and conduct of Christ himself.

About jstevenharper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 31 books.
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