Tuesday, May 31, 2005

fruit of the spirit

The fruit of the spirit are listed in Galatians 5. 22-23: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (NRSV). They are listed by the apostle Paul as an alternative to the “works of the the flesh” (Galatians 5. 19-21), within a larger passage about the obligation of the Christian to use freedom from the law as a means of service and love. Many biblical scholars interpret Galatians 5. 19-23 as a catalog of virtues and vices most likely derived from the primitive teaching (Didache) of the early church.

The fruit of the Spirit are not works or deeds that we accomplish. Instead, the fruit (karpos) are virtues that God cultivates within us as we mature in the Christian life. While some commentaries distinguish the fruit of the spirit from the gifts of the spirit (1 Corinthians 12-14), there are many more similarities: the greatest spiritual gift is love (1 Corinthians 13. 13), and the first fruit of the spirit is love (Galatians 5. 22). The translation by Eugene Peterson of Romans 12. 2, “love from the center of who you are”, captures the essence of the relation between a fruit and a gift of the spirit.

The fruit of the spirit are present in the life of a Christian, but they must always be understood as a gift to the community. God places the fruit of the spirit within the Christian community. In the same way that the gifts of the spirit help us to describe the body of Christ, the fruit of the spirit assist us in understand how God transforms the church apart from our human efforts. Ultimately, the individual and the community reflect the nature of God as these virtues are cultivated.

For further reading see Life on The Vine: Cultivating the Fruit of the Spirit in Christian Community by Philip D. Kenneson.

Ken Carter, from The Upper Room Dictionary of Christian Spiritual Formation (2003).

1 Comments:

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4:27 PM  

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