Those who know me well understand that I’m a theological tinkerer. Spiritual formation and discipleship are perceived as a learning lab with numerous research partners. Below is a spiritual formation idea I wanted to float out based on the fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). My question is simple: what if the fruits, in reverse order, are a path of sanctification (being made holy)?
I explore this question for a few reasons:
- As a person who tends to ask “what is proper?” before I engage “what is the right thing to say?”, I find it wildly appropriate that the list as we know it ends with self-control. PROBLEM: Such a view of the fruits makes them external and absent of any inner transformation which is supposed to be constitutive of the inner working of the Spirit.
- I watch as Christians devour one another over so many things (often trivial). Often times, their criticisms are an extra-biblical list of criteria. Meanwhile, we seem to ignore the list that the Apostle Paul wrote to believers in Galatia (also a divisive culture). PROBLEM: The fruits of the Spirit are supposed to be who followers of Jesus are known…nothing else.
- The love we’re called to live out is the self-sacrificial love of Jesus. We cannot live that out if we’re always fighting for our self-preservation (which is at the heart of the divisiveness of our world). PROBLEM: Our Lord and Savior gave up his life for the world. Why would expect to get out alive?
Below is a very simple table I’ve created on this subject. I would welcome your feedback. The left column is the existing order of the fruits. The middle column is the list inverted as a path of sanctification. The right column details “signposts,” the transitions that occur as we traverse the path of holiness.
PATH OF SANCTIFICATION
|Move away from self-preservation.|
|Joy||Gentleness||Embrace your vulnerable side.|
|Peace||Faithfulness||Commit yourself to a select few people for the long haul.|
|Patience||Goodness||Allow accountability to name brokenness so that health can emerge.|
|Kindness||Kindness||Put your goodness into practice and live life as a positive presence.|
|Goodness||Patience||As obstacles and challenges emerge, extend grace.|
|Faithfulness||Peace||Experience contentment that is not dependent on life circumstances.|
|Gentleness||Joy||Witness the emergence of inner contentment lived out.|
|Self-Control||Love||Know the power of self-sacrificial love.|