I recently finished reading Galatians, and I was so struck by the commentator's notes on the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) that I thought I would share them with you. I take no credit for the next passage. The following is the wisdom of Dr. Simon J. Gathercole, the Galatians editor for the ESV Study Bible.
"The Spirit fights against sin not merely in defense but also in attack by producing in Christians the positive attributes of godly character, all of which are evident in Jesus in the Gospels. Love appears first because it is the greatest quality in that it most clearly reflects the character of God. Joy comes in at a close second, for in rejoicing in God's salvation Christians show that their affections are rightly placed in God's will and his purpose. Peace is the product of God having reconciled sinners to himself, so that they are no longer his enemies, which should result in confidence and freedom in approaching God. Patience shows that Christians are following God's plan and timetable rather than their own and that they have abandoned their own ideas about how the world should work. Kindness means showing goodness, generosity, and sympathy toward others, which likewise is an attribute of God.Goodness means working for the benefit of others, not oneself; Paul mentions it again in Gal. 6:10.Faithfulness is another divine characteristic; it means consistently doing what one says one will do. Gentleness is a quality Jesus attributes to himself in Matt. 11:29; it enables people to find rest in him and to encourage and strengthen others. Self-control is the discipline given by the Holy Spirit that allows Christians to resist the power of the flesh."
I just love this list. It's so encouraging. Love - the greatest quality. Joy reveals to ourselves and others that we are truly saved. Peace is confidence in approaching God. Patience - trusting God's timetable (what a great reminder when you are in the process of trying to buy a house). Kindness - being nice to others. Goodness means following Paul's other words to "count others more significant than yourselves" (Phil. 2:4). Ugh. Why is this so difficult for me? Faithfulness - being true to your word. Gentleness - my very presence could encourage and strengthen others? Whaaaat? And good ol' self-control which gives me the power to not do what is wrong AND the power to do what is right.
The most amazing thing about this list though is not the traits listed on it. Okay, they are pretty spectacular. I mean, they are the very traits of God. But the most awesome thing about them, as in downright awe-inspiring, is that God gives US these traits. In Jesus Christ , we are able to live in the Spirit, which means the very Spirit of God, with all His perfect and holy characteristics, dwells in us and through us. We are able to be loving and patient and kind and self-controlled, because Jesus was this way, and Jesus came to give Himself to us.