Fruits of the Spirit Series: Peace

17 06 2016

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.  –Galatians 5: 22-23

Welcome to the next installment of the Fruits of the Spirit series!  I am so thankful and grateful that you have come to this site!  If you’ve not been following this series thus far, please go back to the beginning and catch up!

I have a confession, first of all, I had another peace entry written, but then the shooting in the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando changed all of these things.  If given guidance, I may publish that later, but I do want to re-write this entry in light of this event.

The Peace Alliance offers a few statistics on violence, some of which are listed below:

  • Violence causes more than 1.6 million deaths worldwide every year. Violence is one of the leading causes of death in all parts of the world for persons ages 15 to 44
  • A World Heath Organization report estimates the cost of interpersonal violence in the U.S. at more than $300 billion per year.
  • 35 percent of women worldwide — more than one in three — said they had experienced violence in their lifetime, whether physical, sexual, or both. One in 10 girls under the age of 18 was forced to have sex.
  • On average, the cost of violence related only to paying for police, justice, corrections and the productivity effect of violent crime, homicide and robbery is $3,257 for each U.S. taxpayer or $460 billion for the United States economy.
  • The 20th century was one of the most violent periods in human history. An estimated 191 million people lost their lives directly or indirectly as a result of conflict, and well over half of them were civilians
  • In 2005, 5,686 young people ages 10 to 24 were murdered–an average of 16 each day.

This is not an exhaustive list.  I’ve just included some of the facts that really stirred my heart when I thought critically about this.  When I think about violence, I think wars, I think mass casualties, I think of governments and armies.  But, my thinking is skewed.  If you look at the statistics, I think it’s safe to say that the large majority of violent acts occur between individuals and not in wartime.

When I meditate upon these statistics and that conclusion, I realize something very profound.  Violence is not a problem of how, it’s a problem of why.  Gun control is a great attempt at reducing violence, but it only takes care of the HOW, and not the WHY.  Reduction in ammunition, gun buy-back problems…they all take care of the HOW we wage violence upon each other, and not curing the root of the problem.

What is the Root of Violence?

When I started to think on this topic, I decided to look back on the first violent act ever committed.  So I looked to the Bible.  I looked at the account of Cain and Abel.  I’m not going to cite the whole story or post it here, but the basic premise of the story goes that Abel was favored.  Cain got jealous because of his favor, and so he took a rock and stoned Abel to death.  The violent act there was the result of human emotion given free reign over Cain’s heart.  And what happened as a result?  He is punished by exile.

Is the rock to blame?

No.  The rock was just sitting there, minding its own business, you know…being all rock-like.  Suddenly, somebody picked it up, and did something with it.

Someone had to do something.

Therefore, the root of violence is not in the guns, it is not in the weapons, it is a disease of the heart.  And not only is it a disease of the heart, but it is the failure of that person to be intentional in allowing the emotions to not control oneself.

How do we solve the problem of the heart? Trust.

It’s not that easy.  Like most things dealing with spiritual things, it is a discipline, a choice that you have to make, in order to grow and to be more peaceful.  It is something that you have to understand what is asked of you and what is expected of you, as a believer, and as a follower of God.

When anger seeks to destroy our peace because we have been wronged against by a brother or sister, scripture is obvious, we have to trust that God will get his vengeance for us.  When we take matters into our own hands, our first impulse is violence, but scripture is clear:

  • Hebrews 10:30-For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.”

  • Romans 12:19-Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

  • Isaiah 57:21-There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked.”

Scripture is clear, that it is not up to us to get even, especially through violence.  It is not my job and it is not your job to get even.  Mother Tereasa best explains this through her quote in the following image:


When we start dealing with issues of violence, we must realize that the idea of violence and peace is an issue that is much bigger than us.  It’s something that we all contribute a small part of, but as a whole, the problem of violence lies with a need for a world-wide change in the heart.

How do we see a change in the heart?

Well, there are several things, the first is major.  We’ve got to be intentional about keeping close to God.  That’s it.  This and this alone causes the rest of the steps to fall into place.  We must be intentional about prayer, worship, time with God, study of the scriptures.

The second is this:  Live out what you believe.  As you study in scripture, you will notice some commands, some things that God expects of us, and we must live them out, in both large ways and small.  Scripture has some really prevalent truths about living with people and pursuing peace.  But it’s not enough to just know what scripture tells us to do.  We have to live it out.

Third, make sure the things that you advocate for, also pursues peace.  If you advocate for a war to be waged, consider if that war is going to actively promote peace.  Sad to say, but war for the greater good of getting to peace is still war, and it is still something that we should avoid advocating.

But….that does not fix it on a wide-scale!

You’re correct.  Until all of human population sees the validity of controlling human emotions and trusting in a larger-scale move of the great deity….peace will not happen.  Because it is an issue we have to fix of the hearts of men and women, there’s nothing out there that we can do to force others to turn their methods to peaceful ways.  However, we can do our part in our own little worlds to bring about peace in the way we relate to each other, and by investing time in organizations and efforts to bring about change.

Some statistics from the Peace Alliance again:

  • Nonviolent resistance campaigns tend to succeed because nonviolent methods have a greater potential for eliciting mass participation — on average, they elicit about 11 times more participants than the average armed uprising — and because this is the source of major power shifts within the opponent regime. Mass participation that draws on diverse segments of society tends to empower and co-opt reformers while cutting off hard-liners from sources of support. When such participation is nonviolent, it increases the chances of pulling the regime’s support from the leadership, allowing security forces, economic elites and civilian bureaucrats to shift their loyalties with less fear of bloody retribution.
  • In West Philadephia High School, within two years of implementing a Restorative Discipline program, incidents of assault and disorderly conduct dropped more than 65%.
  • After the Longmont Community Justice Partnership (in Longmont Colorado) implemented its Community Restorative Justice Program, recidivism rates among youth dropped to less than 10% in its first three years.
  • Washington State Life Skills Training programs in schools (Social and Emotional Learning) show that for a $30 per student cost, benefits are around $1290 — a $1260 value.  At the national level, benefits are estimated to be $810 per student.
  • A study on the cost-effectiveness of early intervention to prevent serious crime in California, showed that training for parents whose children exhibited aggressive behavior was estimated to have prevented 157 serious crimes (such as homicide, rape, arson and robbery) for every $1 million spent. In fact, training in parenting skills was estimated to be about three times as cost-effective as the so-called ‘‘three-strikes’’ law in California.

There are many more statistics like this, but the big conclusion that I can come to from these statistics is that preventative efforts work.  Get involved, advocate.  Don’t just stand by.  Go ahead and participate in efforts that promote peace!

And maybe, just maybe, we will see a little change in our world.


Intro: Fruits of the Spirit Series

16 04 2016

Walking through a store, you can’t help but to hear the random cry of “but I want it!” The scream is shrill, piercing, and you know it is a small boy or girl that is screaming for something.  Then, I hear “But you have so many other toys at home.”  “It doesn’t matter, I want it!”  The child probably has an already over-flowing toy box that isn’t able to contain all of the toys.  There’s a mountain of toys in another room, sprawled out everywhere.  You can’t walk through the living room without stepping on a matchbox car, and you can’t take a bath without finding a rubber toy floating in the tub with you.  There’s legos on the kitchen table, and a discarded bike lying out on the carport.  The fact of the matter is not what toy brings the child the most enjoyment and allows the child to disappear into the wonderland of imagination to create stories of adventure and drama, heroes and villains, cowboys and Indians, car chases and rescue vehicles.  Instead, the focus is on having the newest, or having the “mostest” toys.  As we grow up, we pride ourselves as being able to depart from the materialism.  We pride ourselves on being able to purchase things that are needed and we balance needs with wants.  We buff ourselves up, thankful that we are able to depart from that mentality.

When we go into our spirituality, we are taught that less is more, and that we should not seek the material things.  Where that place of the heart is concerned, we spend our time at spiritual events and we focus on the activities.

In a world where things are so quantity-driven, we as humanity have been chasing the things that give us a sense of quality.  We like the nicest and next big thing and look to the things that give us a sense of identity and give us the results that we want.  And the church is no exception to that.  The church is no departure away from that sense of status and it is no departure away from the quantity-ness of our society.  The life of a Christian is no exception to the quantity trend.  We hold programs and activities designed to attract people, we count our “visitors” that darken the doorways and we keep record of our attendance numbers.  We count ourselves successful when we have more people in the church today than we did a year ago, have raised more than our missions offering goal, or exceed the expected donations for a random drive of clothing or food.  We congratulate ourselves when we find value in numbers.

Unfortunately, we are never called to be concerned about quantity of people.  We are not called to keep attendance records or to programming and events.  We are not called to spend our time and efforts focusing on how we can grow our church numbers.  We are not called to make these things our focus and priority.  We are not called to make material or worldly growth a priority.  So many people would give you the statement to say that checking attendance and keeping record of numbers are not bad or sinful.  However, if I am honest, I’m not going to say that, because doing so tends to forget the individual behind the number, and it erases people of their individuality and their humanity and gives them the label of “visitor #2” instead of John.  It’s so easy when we do that, to just count it as a victory to add to the cause, instead of a person.  And when we do that, we forget to see the people as people, and we don’t invest in them.

We are not called, as a people, to numbers.  We honestly aren’t called to keep record of attendance, we are not called to keep track of numbers.  We aren’t supposed to worry about all that.  Instead, we are called to something more.  We are called to nothing higher than our own personal growth of ourselves, to the side of the God who loves us and who shares his life to us.  We are not called to the growth of the church, but to the relationship that we have with our Creator.  Never, does God say to us, to focus on the growth of the body of Christ, but he says to us, “Come near to me.”  He calls to us “Come close to me.”  “Know me.”

One of the most meaningful passages of scripture continue to be brought up time and time again recently.  I’ve continually heard and re-heard these verses.  In my college years, I spent some time in an in-depth study of this chapter as part of some discipleship training I experienced while serving in a church in Boone.  The passage that this training was based upon is as follows:

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

-John 15:1-8 (NIV)

I won’t delve into an in-depth discussion or exposition of this passage, but I think that it is clear that it is our duty to remain close to the true vine, and to continue to grow in him.  As we grow, we go through seasons of our lives where we are pruned, or cut back, painfully exposed to the elements of the world that is designed to help us grow.

The purpose of our pain, and our existence is that we produce fruit.

The modern church seems to think that fruit is in numbers.  The modern church seems to think that success is fruit, and that as long as we are adding new people to the body of Christ, then we are growing and we are producing fruit.

Nowhere in the passage does it tell us to add more people to the belief of Jesus.  Instead, it is all about us abiding in God, and finding ourselves and our identity in Jesus.  Instead, it’s all about remaining connected.  It’s about discipleship, the intentional seeking of a closer relationship with the Creator through study, meditation upon scriptures, and through other experiences in which God communicates to us.  It’s about us seeking God and being discontented with just meaningless things, but seeking to be changed and transformed by the power of God.  It’s not about numbers.  It’s all about personal growth and growing intimacies with God.

But…it tells us to produce fruit?  What is fruit?  Is it apples?  Oranges?  Well yes, those are fruits, but this is not the kind of fruit that the scripture talks about.  In the context of the scriptures, it doesn’t even really talk about the expansion of the faith or missions.  Later in the scriptures, Jesus talks about how the disciples are to remain in love and they are to back that love up with actions.  And that, my friend, is all about discipleship.  Jesus even tells them how they are to grow and how they are to mature, and it is because….

“When the Friend I plan to send you from the Father comes—the Spirit of Truth issuing from the Father—he will confirm everything about me. You, too, from your side must give your confirming evidence, since you are in this with me from the start.”

-John 15:26-27

So, basically, he says that the disciples will be given a spirit that will not only confirm everything that Jesus said he was, but he will also come, and give you the power to produce fruit and will produce fruit in your life too!

When I first considered the question of “What is fruit?”  God gave me a new awareness of what “fruit” is considered.  It’s not numbers, but instead…

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Galatians 5:22-23

We don’t see fruit that way, do we?  Generally, fruit, as Jesus was saying, I don’t think he was talking about numbers or growth.  I think he was talking more about discipleship.  He was talking about how we grow nearer and nearer to the father, and as we grow nearer, then we embody the fruits of the spirit.  And that, my friend, is fruit.

That is what we are called to produce.

Not numbers, not church growth, but individual, spiritual fruits, that allow us to live in relationships with each other.

When we do that?  That’s when the church numbers start to grow.  That’s when people experience the saving love of God.  That’s when we start to make a difference in our world.

I feel called to start a series, about the fruits of the spirit.  In this process, I will examine all of the fruits of the spirit, using scripture, personal experiences and concepts to confirm that which I think that the Christian is called to produce in their life as fruit.  I will be examining each of the fruits of the spirit and will be using discussions.  I don’t know how often I will post, but I will finish this series.  Stay tuned for more updates!