Fruit, Flesh & Relationships

I wake up in the middle of the night sometimes and scribble thoughts on a notebook by my bed. Sometimes in the morning, these thoughts don’t make much sense, but as I learned last night, if I don’t scribble them down, I spend the rest of the night trying to remember what that thought was!! Not good.
A couple of weeks ago, in one of my early morning wake-ups, I scribbled a few lines down that have prompted me to look at Galatians 5. See, in Galatians 5, the works of the flesh and the fruits of the Spirit are both named.

Works of the Flesh Galatians 5:19-21 (NKJV)–
  • Adultery
  • Fornication
  • Uncleanness
  • Lewdness
  • Idolatry
  • Sorcery
  • Hatred
  • Contentions
  • Jealousies
  • Outbursts of wrath
  • Selfish ambitions
  • Dissensions
  • Heresies
  • Envy
  • Murders
  • Drunkenness
  • Revelries
  • And all other things like these
Now this is a list that most people would say contains bad things. Galatians 5:21 even goes so far as to say, “those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” There is little disagreement in most Christian circles as to these things being bad for  your spiritual well-being, but what about being bad for your relationships.
When I look at this list, everything on here tears down good, caring relationships. The first two destroy thousands of families EVERY YEAR! Someone who is lewd and spouts all sorts of unclean words doesn’t have many true friends just as the person who is jealous and contentious or full of anger will find it difficult to build true, lasting, meaningful relationships.
Now for the Fruits of the Spirit: Galatians 5:22-23 (NKJV)
  • Love
  • Joy
  • Peace
  • Long-suffering
  • Kindness
  • Goodness
  • Faithfulness
  • Gentleness
  • Self-control
This list is a little shorter, but much more powerful. Each of these fruits, these traits, these actions, BUILDS good relationships. The path of the Fruits of the Spirit leads to healthy, meaningful, caring relationships. In marriage, in friendship, in parenting, in any relationship imaginable, walking in the Spirit will enhance, not destroy.
The Message really puts it in some modern words and I like this interpretation of verses 19-23 because it focuses on relationships:

It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on. This isn’t the first time I have warned you, you know. If you use your freedom this way, you will not inherit God’s kingdom. But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.

We all want successful lives and those are truly defined by whether we have thriving, healthy, flourishing relationships. We must seek out ways to make our success sure and true and the best way is to walk in the Spirit, not performing the works of the flesh, being led into strong bonds of friendship and love.
The Message Galatians 5:25: Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in ever detail of our lives.


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