For the past couple weeks we took a break from thinking about “The Spirit Who…” We considered the masks we wear and the idea that we are all saints of God. Even if our name never makes it to the calendar of Saints, we are part of those, who as the song says: “lived not only in ages past; there are hundreds of thousands still. the world is bright with the joyous saints who love to do Jesus' will. You can meet them in school, on the street, in the store, in church, by the sea, in the house next door; they are saints of God, whether rich or poor, and I mean to be one too.” (I Sing a Song of the Saints of God)
As we work on being a saint of God, it is reassuring to know that we are not alone. The Holy Spirit of God bears fruit in our hearts. In the Letter to the Galatians, we are told, “Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control...If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another.” (Galatians 5:16, 22-26)
Jesus warns his disciples several times in the Gospel that they should not compete or compare their fruits or results of ministry to each other. One such instance is in Mark 9:33-37 where when “they came to Capernaum...he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.” Jesus “sat down and called the twelve; and he said to them, 'if anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.’”
It can be very easy to compare the success, or failure, of our work to each other and say ‘mine is better or more important’. Alternatively we might sadly admit that ‘I don’t seem to be able to be as generous as others.’ Galatians warns "Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another.” In God’s eyes all the fruits of the Spirit are equal.
The way of living out the Fruit of the Spirit in our lives is different for each of us. Jesus’ words to his disciples, and the warning in the Letter to the Galatians, can remind us that even the smallest and weakest among us is important to God. The homeless man on the street may have more compassion than the man in the corner office. The poor widow may offer more of herself than her wealthy neighbor.
But it isn’t a competition. In God’s eyes, we are equal.
Let’s start looking at each other as equals not as competitors.
Let’s see each other as family, beloved by one Father instead of insisting that ‘you have to be just like me’.
Let’s be humble enough to say ‘I don’t have all the answers’ and listen to each other.
Let’s support each other to build up the fruits of the Spirit so that we are all strengthened.
Have you ever compared your ministry or gifts to someone else and felt you were better, or that you fell short?What can you do this week to encourage someone who may feel that the Fruit of their lives doesn't matter?