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Practicing the Way of Jesus, Pt. 2

April 26, 2021

by David Williams, President, Taylor Seminary

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law (Gal. 5:22-23 NIV).

Last week, we focused on one important aspect of the way of Jesus, that is, the way of peace. Jesus is the Prince of Peace who brings a kingdom of peace and calls those who follow him to the way of peace. That post pointed out that peace is not merely an end/destination, but it also characterizes the way that end/destination is achieved. The destination is the journey. That is, the peace of Jesus can only be found by following the way of peace. This is underwritten by Jesus’ claim to be “the way, the truth, and the life.” We take this claim very seriously in Kairos. The way of Jesus is at the very heart of what it means to be a disciple. Jesus is the road one journeys in order to find one’s way to God.

This week continues with Paul and what it means to follow Jesus. We are going to focus on Galatians 5 and Paul’s teaching about the “fruit of the Spirit.” Much of my early adult life I hadn’t really seen much of a connection between what Jesus taught about the kingdom and Paul’s writing. In fact, sometimes I got the impression there was a disjunction between what Paul taught about being a Christian and what Jesus said, specifically in terms of what it meant to be a follower of Jesus.

So, I was quite surprised to find that not only does Paul mention the kingdom of God in his letters (14 times!) but in the final verse of Acts Luke characterizes Paul’s message as one of “proclaiming the kingdom of God.” He [Paul] lived there two whole years at his own expense and welcomed all who came to him proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance (Acts 28:31).

What I came to see was that Jesus’ message and Paul’s message were actually the same thing. They both proclaimed the kingdom of God. So, it really shouldn’t surprise us to find rich parallels between Paul’s teaching about living the Christian life and Jesus’ teaching about living in the kingdom.

This is certainly true for Paul’s teaching about the fruit of the Spirit. In fact, if you parallel all five of Paul’s list of Christian virtues to Jesus’ beatitudes, you will find a striking resemblance.

Jesus’s Beatitudes Paul’s virtues
humility and meekness humility and gentleness
righteousness righteousness
mercy mercy
purity of heart purity or goodness
peacemaking peace, tolerance, unity, patience
suffering persecution for
justice and Jesus’ sake
endurance
(blessed are you) joy

(From Gushee and Stassen, Kingdom Ethics: Following Jesus in Contemporary Context. 2nd Edition, Grand Rapids, MI: Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2016, p. 37.)

This really makes sense since Jesus was concerned to teach his disciples what life in the kingdom was to look like now that the reign of God had become a reality. Paul was concerned to teach these believers what their new life in Christ was to look like. Both were deeply concerned about character and, particularly, how their character was displayed in relationship to each other.

Have you ever noticed how many of the qualities listed in the fruit of the Spirit verse involves our relationship with another person? Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, none of these have much meaning outside of a relationship with another person. They tend to name the way we treat one another. What is “love” if there isn’t one whom you love? What is “patience” without one with whom one must be patient? What good is it that one is “gentle” if that gentleness isn’t expressed to another person? The truth is these character qualities all imply relationships in which they are displayed. What is striking is that Paul calls attention to this at the end of the passage in verse 26: Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another.

In the journey of Kairos, we have a great opportunity to live out the way of Jesus by exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit in our relations with each other. Hearing the admonition we too need to be guided by the Spirit in all our interactions with each other and in so doing to display the way of Jesus to all those around us.

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