Life is full of disappointments, dead-ends, and disasters. Each one of us makes mistakes, fails, and sins. All of us deal with the same struggles, whether they originate with other people or are the working of our own hands. Frustrating events are going to happen to everyone.
The difference in humanity is how you respond to challenging situations. You cannot control what happens to you, but you have a choice as to how you will react physically, verbally, and relationally.
When Paul tells the Church in the region of Galatia about the Christian life, he describes what he calls the fruit of the Spirit. These are the attitudes and actions that come out of a follower of Jesus. They are love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23 – NIV 2011)
Recently I noticed that most of these are descriptions of how we respond to situations, particularly the difficult ones. When greeted with hostility, we respond in love. When things are dark and gloomy, we have joy. If people want to fight, we offer peace. As difficulties mount, we forbear. We offer the world kindness and gentleness to encounters where others might not be so kind or gentle. Believers control themselves at times when we feel like losing control.
The fruit of the Spirit is a force of active good as we live for Jesus, but they are also for the reactive good as we respond to the world. People know we are Christians by our love, but how powerful is that love when it is a response to hate?