The Vulnerable Fruits of the Spirit: Patience, Kindness, Gentleness
Passage: Galatians 5:22–5:23, Ecclesiastes 3:11
Welcome to the vulnerable fruit of the Spirit patience! Like we learned with love, joy, and peace, we use patience as a way to control our faith.
Because this is our prayer.
In your Lifeline are post-it notes. This is because this series is going to be giving you post-it thoughts you need to post on your bathroom mirror to remind yourself so you will brave into vulnerability.
We don’t like the tension, that middle ground, that being stuck here when we want to be there in our lives. We don’t like being stuck. We want to control the outcome and the outcome is not this in between.
Plus asking for patience often makes us feel like a failure.
So I’ve got a Greek lesson for you. And I’m not one of those Greek scholars at all. Patience as listed in Galatians 5 is often called long suffering in other versions.Let’s stop right there, long suffering.
The original Greek word is makrothumio, meaning “long temper.” Having this fruit of the Spirit means we are to keep a long and slow temper towards God, others, and ourselves. What?!!! This doesn’t sound holy. This sounds wrong. This sounds uncomfortable. This sounds like staying in vulnerability instead of having something fixed or over with.
Long temper is a good synonym for what I call holy tension. Holy tension is pushing through our “supposed to be’s” and letting time that God uses to create the bigger and better outcome.
It feels better to move through any tension quickly. Whether to move through it in a speedy way that may short-circuit the work of that tension. Or to divert out of the tension. Or to numb the tension. All three are options people take all the time. Which one do you do?
How many bad decisions have you made trying to get out of that tension? This is often the place where regrets happen. Often after we have prayed a prayer for patience. This is why we feel like a failure in patience.
I want to bless you with this beautiful verse out of Ecclesiastes 3:11, “Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.”
We need to give God time to do his ultimate plan. We can’t control this outcome. We need to have patience. Sometimes that feels like long suffering.
A quote from an early church father Tertullian:
“The singular mark of patience is not endurance or fortitude but hope. To be impatient…is to live without hope.” --Tertullian
This is your new prayer: God grant me patience. And in the meantime I’m going to have this long temper with you so I continue to pray and ask questions and seek until I can see the beautiful things in my life because I have hope.
Something else I’ve also learned from my many long tempers with God. God is not silent. God does not hate me. God is close to the broken-hearted. God loves me. God knows my pain. And I am worthy of something good coming. This has helped grow my patience.
We must move on to kindness. We don’t think kindness requires vulnerability because kindness is a behavior we learned back in kindergarten. It is a simple behavior all humans should extend. It is a behavior that affects and blesses everyone around you. Kindness should be a part of anyone’s Christian walk. It should be a fruit of your life.
But to bless someone, to give to someone, to extend yourself to someone has the inherent risk that your heart will be broken. You can’t simply show kindness to someone, particularly a vulnerable someone, without your heart being attached to it.Unless you are that cold of a person.
When you extend kindness to someone, particularly a vulnerable someone, you have to extend a part of you too. And sometimes, too often, those vulnerable ones will turn around and disappoint you. Break your heart. Yet we are still called to extend kindness. The world needs the heartbreak you risk.
God shows Himself when we respond to the most vulnerable and the suffering. You’ve heard those verses in Matthew 25, “Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’ “And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’” Vv 44-45. There are people in your life whom you admire because they keep giving and giving and giving. They vulnerably live in kindness.
Your safe and controlled faith also affects your kindness to others. Oh you are kind…in safe situations. You do the right and good things. But you find excuses to steer out of showing kindness to the vulnerable. In your desire to control your faith you even miss seeing the vulnerable in your life. You miss those Holy Spirit promptings.
Suddenly kindness has become more than a learned kindergarten behavior, huh? The challenge is now there. The holy tension is now given to you because the world needs the heartbreak you risk.
On to goodness. But if I may due to time—I want more time for goodness—I’d like to close with gentleness.
Gentleness almost sounds like something we could do on our own. And another one of those kindergarten behaviors. For example most mothers are gentle with their babies, caring for and nurturing them. We can all do that.
“On our own” is not what I am finding out in each and every one of these fruits of the Spirit. Gentleness is something we think we can do on our own yet is really another attempt to control our faith.
Another attempt of a Greek lesson. In Galatians 5:23 the Greek word for gentleness is prauteswhich means “to submit one’s strength in a posture of meekness.” In fact, gentleness and meekness are somewhat interwoven in English Bible translations. An older meaning from Webster’s for meekness is “enduring injury with patience and without resentment.”That is not too far from the meaning of the biblical word, with the Greek being a bit more positive in feel.
Meekness reminds us of this beatitude, “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.” Matthew 5:5. Meek feels like a soft and fluffy word too. Meek is not weak. Meek is full of so much strength that you don’t always show your power.You are choosing when to power over and when to power under. So no wonder the meek inherit the earth. They are the last ones standing.
Gentleness is not weakness. To be gentle is to endure injury. There is that vulnerability again. To be gentle is to accept the broken-hearted love God allows in our lives.
When you think of mothers—and fathers, Happy Father’s Day--showing gentleness to their babies it is also those 2 am feedings and cleaning up puke and being so exhausted you can’t even hold a conversation. Gentleness requires your everything. Your vulnerability to be there through everything. Even the enduring injury. This is not such a gentle fruit of the Spirit after all.
So how will you now live?
More in The Vulnerable Fruits of the Spirit
June 24, 2018The Vulnerable Fruits of the Spirit: Goodness, Faithfulness, Self Control
June 10, 2018The Vulnerable Fruits of the Spirit: Joy, Peace
June 3, 2018The Vulnerable Fruits of the Spirit: Love