On the ninth day of Christmas my true love gave to me . . . nine ladies dancing.
These nine dancers were really the gifts known as the fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23. The fruits are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Before we look at each of these fruits, we need to remember that they are fruits “of the Spirit”. In other words, these are not attributes or characteristics which we naturally have on our own. These are things which the Holy Spirit produces in us through the working of God’s Word and the Sacraments. We are reminded of this in 1 John 4:10 “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us..”. Those words so clearly remind us that any good words or actions which come from us are things which we have first received from God.
Let’s look at these 9 “fruits” in 3 groups which they are often considered.
Love, joy and peace are inner qualities which reflect our Christian relationship to God. We talked about love on day 3 as part of the trio of faith, hope and love and were reminded that such love is a reflection of the love which God first showed to us in Jesus our Savior. Joy is not a superficial excitement which comes and goes, but a true happiness which comes in recognizing the ways in which God blesses us and takes care of us. Peace is a quiet contentment in every situation of life knowing that God is in control and will work out everything in our lives in the way he knows is best.
Patience, kindness and goodness are reflections of the qualities above as we live and interact with everyone around us. Patience is a virtue which many people struggle with because things don’t happen in the way they want or at the time they want. Patience comes when we are content with what we have or where we are in life no matter what is happening. Kindness is having a heart which desires to show others love and give them the best one can. Goodness is very similar to kindness but has the distinction of wanting and seeking to do good for others.
Faithfulness, gentleness and self-control are reflected in the life of a Christian in the way they conduct themselves in their duties and obligations. Faithfulness shows a heart of faith comes from knowing God and wanting to imitate Him. Gentleness takes the patience and kindness mentioned above and seeks to have a calm demeanor which avoids outbursts of anger. Self-control is not just control of ones tongue, but also seeking to control ones thoughts and actions in way which honors God. It is really taking the 8 previous virtues and wrapping them all together in one.
As you work through that list, it is easy to see how these are attributes which the Christian strives for and attains only with God’s help and strength. God bless you as you seek to imitate him and express these virtues!
Prayer: Heavenly Father I pray that you would give me the fruits of the Spirit and let them be evident in my life as a demonstration to others of the love you have first shown to me. Amen.