If we could tell the difference between good and bad people, we might have saved ourselves a whole lot of pain and trouble. Those who walk on the dark side are often masked as wonderful people because they are master manipulators. They are expert hunters looking for prey, and they can’t do that fully exposed. They have to camouflage themselves in order to easily catch the hunted. They often hide themselves in positions of power and leadership, looking helpful and knowledgeable (and sometimes they even are). So, how can we tell the difference between the good and bad people?
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
We never get to decide someone’s salvation, and whether they are eternally saved or not. If someone claims it, that’s fine, but it’s what is lived out that determines the kind of trust we should put in them. Watching carefully as to not cast our pearls before swine (Matthew 7:6). Faith without works is dead (James 2:20). So, it isn’t a matter of whether someone has saving faith, but whether they have an active faith, which we can gauge by their fruit. A lot of us get confused when we hear fruit. What does that mean? Does it just mean that someone is a good person?
The Bible lists out the fruit, but we often misunderstand each fruits actual meaning. Fruit isn’t based off of how someone makes us feel in these areas because it’s not all going to be as feel-good as it seems. Lets break down the fruit a bit to understand what to look for in someone in order to prevent being hunted by the wolves in sheeps clothing (Matthew 7:15).
Love. Love is a word that gets tossed around far too much in our culture and society. Did you know that for our one word for love, the ancient Greek translations of the Bible actually has six different words for love? That can make a big difference if we use the wrong love for what we actually mean. We hope that our spouses don’t love the cheeseburger they are eating more, or even on the same level, than they love us. That would just be wrong. There are different levels, and there are different ways to love. Love in Galatians 5:22-23 is specifically referring to agape love, which is defined as “affection, good will, benevolence, and brotherly love”. Love isn’t a feeling that is produced, like most of us may think, it is the way we act or treat a person, and are treated in return. It is seeking and doing what is best for another person no matter if it’s hard, uncomfortable, or causes the relationship to possibly even end. The different meanings for the word come in for the different relationship dynamics we have. We don’t usually love our friends the same way we love our children. We don’t usually love our coworkers the same way we love our spouses. If we do, we have some evaluating and readjustments to make in our own lives. God is love, and real love acted out won’t go against what God has planned for us (clearly laid out in Scripture).
Joy. Joy doesn’t mean happiness, so lets get that straight here and now. Happiness fades as quickly as it arrives, and depends upon our circumstances. Joy is lasting, no matter what our circumstances are. Joy is not ignoring the bad things going on, it is being content in every situation (Philippians 4:11-14). It is the product of dwelling on things that are true, honorable, right, lovely, of good repute, excellent, and worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8-9). The joy of the Lord is knowing that this life is hard, but understanding that it will be all worth it because our eyes our fixed on the eternal things and not the temporary. Joyful people aren’t always smiling, and they aren’t always optimists, they are content, and they are not constantly negative.
Peace. Again, peace isn’t a matter of circumstance. Peace is knowing that things may be bad, they may be scary, they may be uncertain, but knowing Who will always be in control. It’s taking the steps of necessary obedience, even when we can’t see ahead, or even when we can and it looks bleak. It is rejoicing in the Lord always (even in the hardest of situations), bringing our anxieties to Him in prayer and supplication, letting our requests be known to Him. He will guard our hearts and minds, giving us a peace we cannot begin to understand (Philippians 4:4-7).
Patience. Patience is endurance, it is perseverance, it is slowness in avenging wrongs. Patience, simply put, is waiting on the Lord. Waiting is one of the hardest things any of us ever has to do. Many of us rarely agree with God’s timing. Patience is placing our feelings of “want right now” aside, and telling God that we will wait if/until He brings it about, walking in obedience every step leading up to it.
Kindness. Many of us have lived our whole lives believing that kindness is niceness. It is not actually the same thing in this case. Kindness is moral goodness and integrity. It is kind to love in a way that may not always seem nice or pleasant. We must try to be nice and pleasant as much as we can, but we must not mistake them for true kindness. Same as love, kindness is looking out for the best interest of another. Loving kindness isn’t laying down like a doormat for others to walk all over us. Loving kindness looks a lot like strength in saying the hard things or holding our tongues when we would rather not.
Goodness. Goodness is almost the same as kindness. It is uprightness of heart and life. It also holds to that moral goodness and integrity. Goodness is doing the right thing, even when it is hard and makes us unpopular. It is our character.
Faithfulness. “The character of one who can be relied on.” Fidelity. Loyalty. Again, it shows our true character, and whether we have any.
Gentleness. Gentleness is not weakness. On the contrary. It is meekness. The best definition I have ever heard for meekness was, “strength under control”. It’s choosing not to lash out or to overcome when we very easily could. It is choosing not to stoop to someone’s level. Gentleness is humbly taking the high road.
Self-Control. “The virtue of one who masters his desires and passions, especially his sensual appetites.” Self-control is wanting something so bad you can taste it, yet you choose to not indulge. It could be major or minor. It just shows that you know you have control over yourself, and you take seriously the responsibility you have over your own self and your actions.
Did reading these through with their true meanings and definitions cause you to take a step back and realize what you have allowed into your life and your heart? They may not actually line up with what you thought. It may be a relief because you might have been told this entire time that your abuse was someone truly loving you: “That you will never understand the patience it takes to live with ‘someone like you’. That you should be happy that you are with your abuser or have been given the life that they provide for you. You should be grateful for the kindness that they show to you. That you will never find someone as good to you as they are. That you don’t understand how many other partners they could have, and the self-control that it takes to not act on all of those prospects.”
These phrases might be all too familiar to you, and they are laced with hints of the fruit of the spirit in them. But, I hope you can now clearly see that there is no fruit except dead fruit in those words and actions. Bind God’s truth to your heart, and do not let another person trick you into believing that their dead fruit is alive and active.
- What is God’s Opinion of Abuse?
- The Three Stages of Abuse
- The One Thing an Abuse Victim Needs to Hear
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