WARNING: this devotion is not exhaustive and has many flaws, just like me. Of course if you pick through every detail you will find exceptions or whatever you want to call it. What I am trying to point out is simply this- the overwhelming text tells us to love and be unified while working correction and reproof among it yet the overwhelming method the church functions in is correction and reproof while working a little love in for those who have been obedient. Let’s get into this! 🙂
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
Notice something about this… the majority of what this fruit exhibits is NOT the characteristics of the corporate church. Among the church we preach morality to the lost, rights and wrongs above unity, and decimate people’s lives with our view of how wrong their decisions were. Jesus Christ spent most of his time (when talking about wrong thinking/actions) telling the religious people they were wrong. I fear the American church is walking almost exclusively in the flesh while using the Bible as their beating stick and also their justification. We’ve reinterpreted “love” (agape) as a love that corrects and disciplines like a parent… which is “Storge” and NOT found here. Agape love is the same love God has towards us, one that gave up everything for someone who was still an enemy. We’ve overlooked the reality that the law was given for us to look at our inefficiencies and be observing if someone was the Messiah. Now we stand on the other side of the cross and use the law as a standard in which the church must live, or even worse, the world must display. When they don’t exhibit these characteristics we demonize them and cast them to hell in our minds.
Read the beginning of this chapter: “1 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.2 Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. 3 Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. 4 You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. 5 For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” Agape…
Paul makes it clear that we cannot live by the law, hold anyone accountable to the law, and if we do we are spitting in the face of Jesus and deeming His sacrifice worthless for us. Paul says that even he cannot do what is right though he wants to. He does say that he ultimately finds relief in the Spirit who empowers him to be obedient (but still messes up constantly). Yet this is how corporate American churches function: we preach the law, obedience to it, and focus on it mainly to “show our devotion.” Paul says THE ONLY thing that counts is faith expressing itself through AGAPE… like Jesus did. He died for us and gave up everything while we were yet sinners. Again, is that where we are? While the world despises us and rejects us are we able to lay down our lives for them? Many of us are struggling laying down our preferences for them…
America has recreated the Pharisees and Sadducee’s among us all while saying we live in grace. The only benefit we have is that a small remnant of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is nestled somewhere inside our disgustingly terrible motives and current process of ‘church’.
To be clear, if we are spewing hate and “righteousness” in the form of ‘rights vs wrongs’ above ‘unity and love’ we are walking in the flesh. I’m not calling for us to advocate for the moral decay of our society, I’m calling us to stop saying we’re “salt helping keep the decay from hastening” while simultaneously amputating people from the access of truth through our hatred. Salt slows decay not by surrounding the object and decreasing the negative effect of the breakdown of that object… not by cutting off the decay. We are the salt, not the butcher. Preserve life, don’t simply remove the already tainted meat. Otherwise the same world you were called to help not decay is being left with no salt. We act as though we are doing a good job at being salt on the earth yet it is only because we are only using our saltiness on the meat that isn’t rotting. We have lost so much truth… Jesus makes it clear that the way He wants us to slow the decay is through life giving love which seeks unity and fellowship over all else. Yet we have put our pharisee mindset into it and redefined that as “unity through division”… Are there other ways to do it, of course. However, Jesus gave us His desire: love one another. Does love include disciplining and guiding like a parent sometimes, yes. Can we be divisive, hateful, overly focused on the law, and just like the pharisees while redefining that as love…. I mean, we CAN because we ARE but we SHOULDN’T be.
Caveat for those who think I am saying we have a license to sin:
So… should we get rid of the morality and stop trying to be obedient? NOOO, this should go without saying since Paul already addresses this in Romans 6. We don’t get rid of these commands but are now ABLE to seek righteousness through obeying God’s direction through the Spirit (following chapters- Romans 7-8). The world cannot obey God nor will they. They won’t until they have the Spirit. So stop screaming in their face that they need to stop sinning when the Bible says they cannot without God’s Spirit and that comes ONLY AFTER salvation. Instead scream in their face (through your actions) that you would give up your life for them… We are currently doing that, while also saying “but we won’t allow you to sin near us.” The word “actions” is key here, as we may be thinking one way and acting differently. The military teaches perception is everything. Now this is obviously not correct but does hold a string of truth: if your actions don’t match your desire then your actions are not fulfilling your desire. We have to make sure our actions AT SOME LEVEL are perceived in the way we want them to communicate. That doesn’t mean at first glance, or the initial impact (think of spanking kids). However, if all we ever did was spank our children this surely wouldn’t be displaying love.
In our redefining of “love” we have been walking in the flesh and ignoring the other aspects of the Spirit: joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. These aren’t separate fruits, these are all the sides of ONE fruit… we glaze past words like this and superimpose our American English reading and assume fruit should have been written as “fruits”.
WARNING (again): this devotion is not exhaustive and (as I do) has many flaws. Of course if you pick through every detail you will find exceptions etc. What I am trying to point out is simply this- the overwhelming text tells us to love and be unified while working correction and reproof among it yet the overwhelming method the church functions in is correction and reproof while working a little love in for those who have been obedient.
Spend 2-3 minutes thanking God for meeting us where we are, and then petition for Him to show you how to apply love in your life. Pray for discernment on how to love people but not be accepting of sin. It’s a hard paradigm to work through, but that’s why we need the Spirit! 🙂 be encouraged, God has not destroyed you yet and you’ve likely made a lot of mistakes. SOOOO don’t grow discouraged when you fail fifty times, God is gracious! 🙂
Pray for the Spirit to shift your mind from thinking the world (for some reason) desires a life that aligns with Christian standards. That is not how God draws the world, it was through the sacrificial love of Jesus (which we are struggling hardcore to display).
Start looking for areas in your life that you may be overly focused on preaching “right living” to people who cannot do it. Then show them how you can miraculously display agape love, and they likely have the inability to! One of the only things the enemy cannot do is recreate agape love, he can replicate a love that accepts everything EXCEPT God. So if you can go into a situation and be loving and have open arms even when they are attacking you SOMETHING in them will begin to question HOW.