Governing Through the Fruit of the Spirit
But the fruit produced by the Holy Spirit within you is divine love in all its varied expressions: joy that overflows, peace that subdues, patience that endures, kindness in action, a life full of virtue, faith that prevails, gentleness of heart, and strength of spirit. Never set the law above these qualities, for they are meant to be limitless. Galatians 5:22-23 (TPT)
I have always thought of the fruit of the Spirit as byproducts of a life lived in concert with God’s will. A healthy tree produces healthy fruit, an unhealthy tree produces bitter or shriveled fruit, or none at all. A dead tree is dead and a dying one is in the process of approaching death rather than growing and maturing into fullness of life.
The same can be said of our lives. We are either growing and maturing in our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual lives, or we are headed in the other direction, toward death. How we feed, exercise, and develop ourselves is evidenced not only in our outward appearance and inner health, but also in the fruit we produce, which is what the world sees and how it judges us.
I recently came to the rather startling realization (at least to me) that the fruit spoken of in this passage is actually a system of government, established by our Creator, given to us by Paul the great communicator, and intended to provide the system by which we govern our lives. The fruit of the Spirit is not just a byproduct of our lives, it is in fact the way in which we produce our fruit.
Divine love is the thing. It is this love which expresses itself in joy that overflows, peace that subdues, patience that endures, kindness in action, a life of virtue, faith that prevails, gentleness of heart, and strength of the spirit. All of these attributes flow out of the one spirit, which is love. Each attribute is separate but all work together as one. We might think of this as the different attributes flowing out of love as living water and into our lives. This is how our Creator intends for us to govern and live our lives, including all its hubris. Too often, I fear, we operate differently. Jealousy, fear, greed, avarice, power, manipulation, control and all their many cousins are too often the tools of governance we turn to (see vv. 19-21 for Paul’s list of fleshly deeds). And we wonder why our lives and world are filled with these. It is because we choose to govern through them and not through the attributes of love.
An analogy that comes to mind is a corporate Board of Directors. Here, leaders and sages set strategy, determine policy, establish rules, and provide oversight and governance to an organization. Even though we do not know them we can easily observe their fruit in how the organization they govern operates. How it treats its customers, employees, and shareholders. How it represents itself in media. What culture it expresses versus how it actually operates, and its quality of products and services. All of these are fruit, but the fruit is the product of governance.
This notion of governing through the fruit of the Spirit, deploying it as a ruling protocol, is different from how we normally think about ruling. Yet, it is in complete alignment with the model Yeshua portrayed during his time here on earth. Despite all that went on around him, he operated in and ruled through the fruit of the Spirit – joy, peace, patience, kindness, virtue, faith, gentleness, and strength. Further, he demonstrated the fruit’s unlimited power – power much greater than the law of the land.
Viewing the fruit of the Spirit as a way of governing our lives puts a new emphasis on not just the fruit but how it is grown. Growing our fruit is a day-by-day experience wherein each decision, reaction, belief, value, faithfulness, act of patience, and virtue is put on display for all to see. More importantly, however, these are first hidden in our hearts, nurtured through our desire and intent, and allowed to bloom.
Each of the attributes of love listed by Paul are, I believe, a seat of government from which we, as kings and priests, are to govern our own lives and the spheres of responsibility we’ve been given, including our families, businesses, and other pursuits. This is our calling as sons of God: to be good, faithful, patient, virtuous, peaceful, and kind rulers.
I find Paul’s closing statement a profound bit of wisdom: “Never set the law above these qualities, for they are meant to be limitless.” God’s government is greater than all our troubles, the provision and power of its fruit made limitless in our lives when we choose to make it our own.
Father God, along with the rest of your provision, give me the desire to live the life you desire of me, the ability to set aside the values and claims of this world and cling to your truth, and to govern myself and my world from the seat of your provision.