I've made no secret of how often I receive emails calling me "bitter" or "angry" or something along those lines. Aside from it being sometimes annoying, I really don't pay much attention to the labels anyone wants to place on me. I've been very open that I AM bitter and angry about my experience, but make no mistake, for that I'm thankful. For those who don't understand what I'm getting at, let me explain...
If not for my bitter experience, and if not for the anger over it, there wouldn't be the passion to pursue the fight against patriarchy and hyper-fundamentalism that has arisen in me in the last couple of years. Now, whether I'm making any kind of dent in the battle is surely debatable and isn't for me to decide, but, I alone am responsible to do what I feel compelled by God to do, no matter how pretty, ugly, effective, or ineffective others perceive it.
When we become unwilling to risk everything for the sake of the right thing, our salt has lost its savor, and we no longer season our world. If this blog (and whatever other pursuits in this battle that I may partake in) costs me the approval of people - even those who also profess Christ, so be it.
Recently, I've been hit by some who email and discuss this blog with the idea that I "fail to demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit". The fruit of the Spirit is something I've wanted to address in some way for some time, and these concerns of readers seem to have opened the door a bit, so I want to look at it from a couple of different angles. This is neither a defense or a disclaimer. This is simply my interpretation and application of the passages of scripture in question.
First of all, let's look at the passage of scripture we're dealing with...
Galatians 5:22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
I don't argue with the scripture at all. However, I DO argue vehemently with a rigid, one-size-fits-all interpretation and application of it that renders it a list of rules, a buzzverse, and, by default, legalistic. For instance, if we apply that passage literally and rigidly, without any context, to Jesus here...
John 2:14 In the Temple area he saw merchants selling cattle, sheep, and doves for sacrifices; he also saw dealers at tables exchanging foreign money. 15 Jesus made a whip from some ropes and chased them all out of the Temple. He drove out the sheep and cattle, scattered the money changers’ coins over the floor, and turned over their tables. 16Then, going over to the people who sold doves, he told them, “Get these things out of here. Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!” 17 Then his disciples remembered this prophecy from the Scriptures: “Passion for God’s house will consume me.”
It doesn't look very good on Jesus, does it? Or how about Matthew 23? Ouch.
Was Jesus producing the "fruit of the Spirit"? We know He was, because He had an unlimited quantity of the Holy Spirit (John 3:34). So if the standard in Galatians doesn't apply to Christ at ALL times, why do we use it so rigidly at ALL times?
It was never meant to be a standard. It was meant to be a comparison. It has fallen headfirst into the 1st Corinthians 13 list of rules trap which I wrote about here. Regarding the comparison, let's look at what Paul was comparing the fruit of the Spirit to...
Galatians 5:19 When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, 21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
Frankly, I fail to see where what I write on this blog falls into that list - although I'm sure some will say anger, division, or hostility. Then again, if you believe that, hold Christ to that same standard in the scriptures I quoted above and see how He fares.
If Paul had known that passages such as those in Galatians 5 or 1st Corinthians 13 were gonna be used as a list of rules, and if he knew how misappropriated those passages would be in their use to judge the actions of brothers and sisters, I'd dare say he'd have never written them. It's amazing how legalistic we can easily become - despite having no intention of legalism.
If we're using Galatians 5 as a list of rules, to be frank once again, it isn't the Spirit producing the fruit - it's US attempting to do the work of the Spirit through our flesh. Again, it's the same dynamic as a rule-driven application of 1st Corinthians 13.
The fruit absolutely can't produce the tree.
While I hope that the fruits of the Spirit mentioned in Galatians 5 (patience, gentleness, love, joy, peace, et cetera) are evident in my life - those things positively will not factor in to my approach to the teachings of patriarchy and hyper-fundamentalism, or to the people using them to abuse and oppress God's creation.
We should, without question, bear fruit. What we shouldn't do is be styrofoam when steel is called for - all in an attempt to produce for ourselves what only the Holy Spirit is capable of.