Consensus and Choices
Consensus is hard work – it demands that we make choices as a faith community. Yogi Bera, the Baseball Commissioner in the US, once jokingly said: “When you come to a fork in the road, take it!” As ridiculous as it sounds, churches often make the mistake of merging opposing choices to try and keep the peace. This rarely satisfies anyone. Moreover, this approach can actually cause frustration that results in fights and uncivil behavior.
Galatians 5: Fruit of the Spirit
Paul understood that they way people treat one another often places them in a position to make good or bad decisions. Think back to the last major decisions you faced. Was it a good experience? How did people treat one another during the process?
“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 (love), exuberance about life (joy), serenity (peace). We develop a willingness to stick with things (forbearance), a sense of compassion of the heart (kindness), and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people (goodness). We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments (faithfulness), not needing to force our way in life (gentleness), able to marshal and direct our energies wisely (self-control). [The Message and NIV versions]
These are often called the Fruit of the Spirit. The believer who walks in the Spirit of God does not need a system of laws to produce the right behavior – they rise from within. Jesus told us before he ascended to the Father that he would send us the Spirit to help us live together in community.
Carefully read the 3 categories of these gifts defined below. Which is easy for you? Which is harder to accomplish?
Inner Qualities that reflect our relationship to God
The first three fruit (love, joy and peace) have to do with our relationship with God. Love nurtures an obedience and willingness to serve God before all else. Joy provides a deep sense of well-being that all is well in God and that the joy of the Lord is our strength. Peace comes from being right with God – it reminds that God is in control.
REFLECTION: When you make decisions, how do you live out of these qualities? What practices are a part of your process that acknowledges God and God’s will? How does your method of making decisions take God’s will into consideration?
The Christian’s attitude toward others
The next 3 fruit help us properly focus our attitude toward others. Often when we are in the heat of a decision, there is a risk of treating others who disagree with you as being wrong or the enemy. This should never happen. Consider the true meaning of the next three qualities:
Patience is being tolerant of others even to the point of enduring pain inflicted by them. It is a calm willingness to accept situations that are irritating or painful.
Kindness is being decent to others – being humane toward others. Especially people different from you. Not remaining silent in the face of a wrong, really matters; allowing God to use you to make things better is important. Kindness stands ready to forgive.
Goodness is often called generosity. It is a moral and spiritual excellence in doing good for others. think of it as allowing GOd’s grace to pass through you to others so God gets the glory.
REFLECTION: How would you rate your treatment of others who think differently from you? How do you live out these qualities in the way you listen to another perspective or proposal? Would you say that God is glorified in the conversations and interactions of people when they gather to make decisions or is more like a power play or competition?
Living out our Christian Calling
The last three Fruit of the Spirit guides how we live out our Christian calling with one another. Faithfulness is being loyal and trustworthy to God’s best. It is believing that God has a higher purpose. Gentleness causes us to be humble and work for God’s best in us. Self-Control is often misunderstood to mean controlling how things turn out so that our choice prevails. Rather, it is restraining anything in us that prevents us from following God whole heartedly. Sometimes this means that we act in ways that leave us open to fresh perspectives and options to the decisions we face.
REFLECTION: How do people in your congregation or organization live out their calling when making decisions? Do you seek God’s will together or does your process cause a ‘free-for-all’ of clashing wills and agendas? How might you foster these fruit in your group?
Ways to use this material
Galatians 5 makes a good study for leadership groups and decision-makers. Consider ways to keep this material before people such as Devotions, Preaching series, or as an Evaluation tool.
We can learn several things from this Bible passage:
- The Holy Spirit is our Sustainer, Guide and Counselor whose presence makes a real difference in how we live in community and approach decisions. The Spirit helps us to be in tune with God’s purpose for our lives and religious groups.
- We are not perfect! We are all a work in progress – Methodists call it ‘moving on to perfection’. Do not get frustrated or impatient with yourself or others. Strive to let God dwell in you so you are more in God’s image.
- The Fruit of the Spirit is not a gauge to judge one other or put others down. How we live out these fruit in unique although there are common traits.
- When people see these fruit in us – they want to come to Christ! People are turned off by infighting and a lackluster witness of how Christians work together to make decisions. Is God glorified when they see your actions and hear your words?
May God’s fruit dwell in you and be evident when you make your next decision.