Four suggestions to grow faithfulness – Fruit of the Spirit: Faithfulness, Part 5

What can help us to grow faithfulness? In addition to removing the four roadblocks we talked about in the previous post, here are four suggestions that might help you grow faithfulness in your life.

Serve people.  Is there someone you have a bad relationship with?  Serve them.  Reach out in kindness to them.  Sometimes it takes time.  Faithfulness requires time. 

Pray consistently.  Jesus once told the story of lady who prayed and didn’t give up. (I refer to the story here. It is found in Luke 18.)

Do things that are hard for you.  This is called being sacrificial.  Faithfulness is hard.  We love “hit and run” serving that is quick, easy and doesn’t require a lot.  Faithfulness.

Give until it hurts.  The story of King David in ancient Israel is a powerful example of this.  Turn to 2 Samuel 24:18, page 263.  David took a census of his army, and he admits that he did so unfaithfully to God.  Perhaps he was arrogant about the size of his army, or perhaps he was depending on the might of his army rather than depending on the power of God.  Either way, the result was a plague upon the people, and David is very upset.  So he visits a man named Araunah, offers to buy his wheat threshing floor, so David can build an altar there and sacrifice to the Lord to atone for his sins. Araunah says, “King, I give it all to you, and in fact, I’ll give you the wood and animal for the sacrifice.” An awesome gesture, but David’s answer is perhaps even more awesome, “I will not sacrifice to the Lord that which cost me nothing.” David demonstrates faithfulness after faithlessness. 

This is similar to what Paul says in Romans 12:1, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Giving of ourselves sacrificially is faithfulness.

Finally, remember that when we blow it, God is faithful! There is always grace.

Some people fear that grace gives us a license to be unfaithful.  When we know that if we sin, God will always forgive, we could be tempted to sin even more.

Paul says otherwise in Titus 2:11ff, “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.”

God’s grace teaches us to be faithful!!!

Let us walk in step with the Spirit by growing the fruit of faithfulness.

Photo by Ales Maze on Unsplash

Four roadblocks to faithfulness – Fruit of the Spirit: Faithfulness, Part 4

What causes people to not be faithful? See if any of these potential roadblocks resonate with you.

Roadblock #1: Fear – If we have an opportunity to step out of our comfort zone, to step out in faith, we can be afraid that we can’t handle it.  We hold back rather than trust God to carry us through.  Sometimes we never make the commitment to serve or give because we’re afraid we won’t keep it.  The fear can be overwhelming. 

Think about Jesus’ teaching like “lay down your life” or “give it all up for me.”  Jesus taught that his disciples will die to themselves and follow him. If we follow Jesus like that, will God provide?  Will he care for us?  We are sometimes not faithful, because we are afraid that God will not be faithful to us.  So we don’t risk it.

Roadblock #2: Imposter Syndrome – This is when we don’t think well enough of ourselves to step out and serve.  We think we can’t do it.  We don’t think we are smart enough, qualified enough.  When I was working on my dissertation, I battled a major case of imposter syndrome.  I love reading books, but I really doubted that I had much I could contribute with my writing.  There are plenty of other people way smarter than me, way more insightful.  They should be writing, not me.  I battled that every step along the way. In fact, a couple weeks ago, my track mentor asked me to come to a dinner for some current doctoral students and share my doctoral studies experience as well as some of what I had written on culture.  I was super nervous.  I told the group that I was struggling with imposter syndrome standing before them.  One guy spoke out and said, “Oh man…you mean it doesn’t go away?”  When you struggle emotionally, the result can be that you can become unfaithful.

Roadblock #3: Bitterness – If someone hurts you, you can grow bitter or even hateful toward them.  Those dark attitudes can often lead to a lack of faithfulness on our part, both to the Lord and to the people that have hurt you.  So there will be times when we need to address ourselves first.  You might read that last sentence and think, “Wait, Joel…are you saying I need to be faithful to people who have hurt me?” Almost certainly, yes. In marriage we will often hurt our spouse, and they will hurt us. In parenting, we will often mistreat our children, and they will often mistreat us. In a work setting, employers and employees hurt one another. Our hurt toward one another does not negate the need to be faithful to one another. Marriage vows state this very clearly.

Of course, there will be, sadly, some hurts that require us to build healthy boundaries between ourselves and the person perpetrating the hurt. Those boundaries are faithful expressions of love for self and others, with the purpose of keeping us safe from needlessly experiencing more hurt from that person. The person we set up boundaries against will almost certainly accuse us of being unfaithful, but their accusation should not deter us from erecting those healthy boundaries.

When you are struggling with hatred and bitterness, when you have been hurt by someone, before you can be faithful, you’ll probably have to spend time with God, dealing with your own thoughts and emotions.  You might need professional counseling. 

We can spend so much time thinking about and discussing how we have been hurt, how difficult it is for us.  “I have rights,” we declare.  It is so easy to get vindictive and fight for our rights.  But faithfulness is about surrendering your hurt to him.  Give up your rights to him.  You’ll probably not have the comfort of having the person come and ask forgiveness.  Turn to Philippians 2:1-5, page 951.  Self-sacrifice is essential for growing faithfulness.

Roadblock #4: Busyness.  Another roadblock to faithfulness is that we have so jammed packed our lives full of things, that we have very little room to grow in our faithfulness.  Whether it is habits, hobbies, entertainment, or otherwise, we need to evaluate our lives. Is your life overly scheduled?

In years past we’ve planted a garden in our back yard, but this year we decided to just have a berry patch.  Even though we didn’t plant vegetables, our berry patch was covered with weeds, which, of course, happens every year.  So first we had to get rid of a bunch of weeds.  Then we had to care for the overgrown berry plants, many of which have thorns.  We trimmed them. Some were growing too thick, too close to each other, so we had to thin them. 

With weeds gone, berry plants trimmed and thinned, they had freedom, space to grow.  And grow they did!  Not just berries, but more weeds too.  So we have to constantly weed.  Life is like that.  We’ll have a period where we clear out some space to grow closer to the Lord, and then things get busy.  Before you know it, you feel like there’s no time for the Lord.  Clear out the weeds.  Trim your life.  Thin out your life. 

I experienced this recently with writing my dissertation.  When I would be adjunct teaching a local Bible college class, I did not have time to work on my dissertation.  Or barely any time. 

The first year of dissertation-writing went by and some of the guys in my track graduated.  They finished their dissertation!  They were done, and I watched their progress with admiration and a bit of jealousy.  I so badly wanted to be done, but life was too busy when I was teaching a class.   When I didn’t have a class, I had freedom to write.  But when I had a class, my dissertation ground to a halt.  So this past winter and spring, I said, “No” to teaching opportunities, and I was able to focus on my dissertation. 

What about you?  Is it time to pull some weeds?

Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

The surprising definition of faithfulness – Fruit of the Spirit: Faithfulness, Part 3

In the previous post we learned that for faith to be true faith, it must lead to a life that is faithful.  And that brings us to the surprising definition of the word Paul used in the Fruit of the Spirit passage.

The word Paul used in Galatians 5:22, “faithfulness,” is defined as “the state of being someone in whom complete confidence can be placed.” Two synonyms are: “trustworthiness, dependability.”  Isn’t that interesting?  We talk quite a bit about how we need to trust in God.  But there is a sense in which the better question is God asking, “Can I trust in my people?”   Of course, God does NOT need salvation!

That’s not what God is asking when he questions us, “Can I trust in you?”  Instead think about the mission of his Kingdom. Faithfulness looks more like God asking the question: “Can I trust my people to pursue my mission?  Are they faithful to my cause?  Are they faithful to me?”

Are we being faithful? Can God trust in us to do the work that he has called us to do?  Are we being people in whom God can place complete confidence? 

You might think, “Geez, no one is that faithful!  No one is perfect.”   That’s true.  No one is perfect.  If we’re honest, there is no one in whom God could have COMPLETE confidence.  And if you are thinking that faithfulness cannot possibly mean perfection, I agree with you.  I’m not making an argument for perfection.  But I am making an argument that God wants us to grow more and more faithful.  He does not want us to be satisfied with mediocrity!   

Faithfulness is consistent. 

Faithfulness is not passive, it is active. 

Faithfulness looks like a parent, stepparent, grandparent who supports the children in their family. A husband who cares for his wife with Alzheimer’s. A father who cares for his paraplegic son.

We can focus on dramatic examples.  But what does faithfulness look like in middle class America, when we are swamped with bills, with work, with a million events, and we are just trying to keep it together?  We are much more focused on whether God is going to be faithful to us. 

For some of us, to think that we need to grow more faithful to God can feel overwhelming.  So, we have to ask why?  Why does the idea of growing faithfulness in our lives feel overwhelming?  When we know that God’s way is the best way, the way of abundant life, why do we inwardly rebel?  Shouldn’t we be excited and eager to pursue growing faithfulness to God?  The truth is that we might not feel that way.  Why?

Check back in to the next post, as we’ll try to answer that question, examining four potential roadblocks to unfaithfulness.

The important difference between faith and faithfulness – Fruit of the Spirit: Faithfulness, Part 2

In the previous post we studied a couple passages of Scripture that declare God’s faithfulness. You might read those verses and think, “Okay, I see the words of Scripture, but based on what is happening in my life, it doesn’t always seem that God is faithful.”  If we’re honest, we can feel like lamenters in the psalms who cry out to God saying, “Lord, I need you!  Why are you taking so long to answer my prayers?  Wake up!  Are you asleep?”  Some of you are wondering why it seems your prayers are unanswered.  Does God see my pain?  Does it feel that God has left you hanging?

In those moments we do what the lamenter does in Lamentations 3:22-23, we remind ourselves of the truth that God is faithful.  The way forward might seem foggy or difficult, but God is faithful.  We might to be reminded of this many times.  We might need to repeat it many times.  We might need to post a visual reminder on our mirror, on our refrigerator, on our screen saver, our lock screen, our dashboard. 

Because he is faithful, we can be faithful.  We can grow his faithfulness in our lives.  That’s what walking in step with the Spirit is all about.  We learn to do what he does.  Our steps, our pattern of live, our choices begin to look more and more like his.  We learn to grow in faithfulness just as he is faithful.

So, what does it mean to for us to be faithful?

Proverbs 3:3 says “Let love and faithfulness never leave you,” and we would do well to find out what that means!

First an important question: What is the difference between faith and faithfulness?

In the Old Testament if you search for the word “faith” you will hardly find it.  But if you add “ful” on the end to make the words “faithful, faithfully, or faithfulness,” then you find many more instances of this word.  In the New Testament, however, we see the word “faith” a lot, but only a few of the “ful” version.  Why the difference?

Is there a difference?  The OT Hebrew conception of “faith” was not just intellectual.  In other words, for the Hebrews, the definition of faith carried action with it.  You showed what you believed by your actions, your faithfulness. 

The NT was written in Greek, and the Greeks had an intellectual concept of faith.  The word that Paul uses in the Fruit of the Spirit is sometimes translated, in other New Testament passages, as “faith” and sometimes it is translated “faithfulness.” 

So what was Paul referring to?  Just an idea of belief in our minds?  Or a concept that involved action?  Sometimes it seems like the New Testament writers disagree. 

Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:8-9 that we saved by grace, through faith, not by works, it is the gift of God.

James says, in James 2 that faith without works is dead. 

What saves us?  Faith or faithfulness?  We need both.  We show our faith by our faithfulness!

These two concepts have often been used to create confusion in Christian doctrine.  Can we earn our way to heaven by being good?  Or do we have to have faith in God?  What gives?

The two concepts are not two concepts, but two parts of one and the same concept. 

We cannot save ourselves.  We cannot work our way to heaven by doing good deeds.  Paul said that clearly.  Jesus had to die on the cross for our sins. He was the only one worthy of being that sacrifice. He representatively took all our sin on him, but he didn’t stay dead. His miraculous rising from the dead, shows his power over sin, death and the devil.  Therefore, we place our faith in him, we are saved. But what does it mean to place our faith in him?

Paul describes it this way in Romans 10:9, 10, “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

There is a story to be believed.  There is content that is true.  We believe that Jesus is God and that he rose from the dead. We claim that story as historical fact to be believed.

But the belief, the faith, is not just intellectual. 

James makes that very clear.  Even Satan believes in God, but Satan’s action is opposed to God. Faith without deeds is dead.  Our faith should be faithful.  We should have a faith that is evidence by faithfulness. 

Abraham is an amazing example of this.  You can read his story in Genesis, but a summary is that God asked Abraham to move his family from their hometown to a place God would show him. And Abraham followed God! To place his faith in God, Abraham had to act. Our faithfulness shows that our faith is not just cerebral, it shows that it is real.

Hebrews 11 is the famous Faith Chapter in the Bible.  In verse 6, the writer of Hebrews says that “Without faith, it is impossible to please God.” We need faith to please God, but that faith shows itself to be true faith when we are faithful. Do you have a faith that is faithful? 

Faithful: its who God is – Fruit of the Spirit: Faithfulness, Part 1

I follow the Washington Commanders.  In our church we have many Eagles fans and some Steelers fans.  I follow the Commanders because my dad went to seminary in Washington DC, and there he caught the bug and passed it on to me and my brother.  In the 80s and 90s, it was easy to be a Washington fan.  They regularly made the playoffs and won three Super Bowls.  

It’s been very difficult for the past 30 years, however, to be a faithful Washington Commanders fan.  You might ask, “Who are the Commanders?”  Is that some arena football team?  A USFL team?  No.  It’s the new name of the former Washington Redskins.  I support the name change, but I will admit a name change makes it hard to feel connected to the team.  Actually they’ve had two name changes in the last few years.  The team first abandoned the old name, and team leadership decided to go with a temporary name, “The Washington Football Team,” while they took some time to think about it.  Along with the name changes, the team has performed terribly for years. On top of that, the front office is a mess, filled with scandals and mismanagement.  It’s hard to be a faithful fan when things aren’t going well. 

We see that tendency in many areas of life.  The difficulty of faithfulness, especially in the face of struggle.  Can we be faithful when life is hard? Can we be faithful when we don’t want to be faithful? 

Over the last month we have been studying what is called The Fruit of the Spirit.  This week we focus on Faithfulness.  One of Jesus’ first followers was a guy named Paul.  He started a lot of churches, and he wrote them letters.  To the churches in the region of Galatia, which is in modern-day Turkey, Paul wrote about The Fruit of the Spirit. 

In Galatians 5:22-23, Paul wrote that Christians are people who walk in step with the Spirit of God.  We are thus to be led by the Spirit so we can grow the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. What is the Fruit of the Spirit? In Galatians 5:22-23, Paul lists nine qualities that are the fruit of the Spirit.

In the previous weeks we’ve studied love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and now this week we study faithfulness.  We’ll get to the definition of faithfulness in a future post, but usually what we think of when we think about faithfulness is a person who is committed, who is true, who has given their allegiance to something, and they follow through.

When my wife and I were missionaries, we were so thankful for faithful supporters.  People who kept their promised commitment. 

Or consider a faithful worker.  She shows up on time, works hard, rarely takes sick days, supports the boss, and promotes the company…year after year after year.

How do we become faithful like that? To answer that question, we first need to ask and answer another one, “What is the root of faithfulness?”

In Romans 3:3-4 Paul asks a very thought-provoking question, “What if some lack faith?  Will their lack of faith nullify God’s faithfulness?”  It is a question that perhaps all of us have wondered from time to time.  There are moments, perhaps long periods during which we feel like our faith is weak.  We don’t feel we are worthy of God.  We might be struggling personally.  Maybe we have given in to a sinful habit or attitude, maybe we feel very far from God.  Evaluate your relationship with God.  Are you close?  Are you lacking faith?  Does it feel a bit scary or unsettling to consider those questions?

In those dark times, we can wonder, with Paul, “Is God justified in turning his back on me?”  Maybe when we are so faithless, God doesn’t have to be faithful to us?  Is that true?

Here’s Paul’s response: “Not at all.”

Hear this very clearly: Even when you lack faith, your lack of faith does not affect God’s feeling toward you.  How do I know this?  Because scripture very clearly tells us how God feels about us when we feel like we are lacking faith. 

First we’ll look at a passage from the Old Testament, Lamentations 3:22-23.

Before we read those verses, let’s try to set them in the context of the book of Lamentations.  The author of the book of Lamentations, the lamenter, is wrestling with God about a situation happening in the ancient nation of Israel. That situation is identical to what we learned in our study of Ezekiel a few months ago.  Remember how the city of Jerusalem had been invaded by the King of Babylon, and some of Jews in Jerusalem had been taken away in exile?  Remember how their precious city and temple had been destroyed?  The Lamenter, probably the prophet Jeremiah, was living in that time, and he is so deeply frustrated with God.  We’ve talked about lament as the expression of our frustration with God.  A couple months ago Clint Watkins guest blogged about lament, using the example of Psalm 77, which is a song of lament.  The psalms are filled with laments, which are people crying out in God to anguish.  The book Lamentations is a big, long awful, painful lament.

Maybe you have felt that way sometimes.  You are going through a long period of waiting, and hurting, and confusion, and you’re praying and you’re not receiving a response from God.  It doesn’t seem fair.  It seems wrong.  You’re wondering if God is going to keep his promises.  You might be having a crisis of faith.  Do what the lamenter does.  He gets around to the truth that God is faithful.

Dwell on God; think about who he is, and though the pain you’ve been going through is great, remember God’s love and compassion.  Then burst forth in praise.  That’s exactly what the lamenter does in Lamentations 3:22-23, “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

Though the world seems like it is falling apart around us, God is faithful.  There is nothing that can affect his faithfulness. 

Likewise, let’s hear a verse from the New Testament.  In 2 Timothy 2:13 Paul writes, “Even when we are faithless, God is faithful, because he cannot deny himself.”  Faithfulness is rooted in God.  He is the truly faithful one.  Even when we ourselves are falling apart, when we think we are losing our faith or feel apathetic about God, or perhaps we being rebellious, God is still faithful.  God’s faithfulness means that he is consistently loving and caring for us.  I once heard the phrase about God: “There is nothing you can do that will make God love you less.”  He is faithful.  You can always depend on him.

Photo by Jordan Wozniak on Unsplash

We need faith that is more than faith – Fruit of the Spirit: Faithfulness, Preview

What do you think of the name of my church: “Faith Church”?  I checked the historical records we have on file, and they begin in 1968 after the name of the church was already decided.  Wouldn’t it be cool to have a transcript of the discussion that led to our name “Faith”? Why did whoever picked the name “Faith” go with that name?  There are other churches in our denomination with the name “Faith.”  In fact, sometimes the postal service delivers mail to my Faith Church, but addressed to the pastors of those other Faith Churches.  There’s one in Harrisburg and another in Temple, PA.  Each of those are older than my Faith Church, so maybe the group of people who started Faith Church just picked what was a common name for churches in that era. Nowadays churches can be quite intentionally creative with their names.  Some might say that “Faith” is a boring name for a church, when compared to names like “Burning Hearts” or “Journey.”  There’s nothing wrong with those names, but I would like to propose that “Faith” is an excellent name for a church. 

The problem is that the concept of “faith” is not as straightforward as it might seem.  What is faith?  “Faith” is often understood as “religion.”  The Christian faith.  The Catholic faith.  The Muslim faith.  Used that way, “faith” refers to a set of beliefs.  So when attached to our church, is that what we mean by “Faith Church”?  Are we referring to a set of beliefs?  Yes…and no.  We certainly hold to beliefs. In fact, the official name of our church refers to those beliefs.  

Our full name is “Faith Evangelical Congregational Church.”  Evangelical Congregational (EC) is the name of our denomination, the group that planted Faith Church in 1968 as a daughter church of Grace EC which was located nearby in the City of Lancaster.  Faith Church and the EC Church do not use “evangelical” in our name because we agree with the politicized contemporary meaning of “evangelical.”  Instead we hold to the biblical, historical meaning of “evangelical.”  “Evangelical” is a Greek word that means “to proclaim good news,” a word which the earliest Christians used to refer to preaching the story of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, our central belief. 2000 years later, we agree! 

Next “congregational” refers not to the congregationalism of New England, but to the idea that each local congregation owns its own property and decides on its governance structure.  In other words, the denomination does not own our property, and EC leaders have no authority over the governance of our church.  We do, however, voluntarily connect to the denomination because we believe it is important to be part of an accountable relationship, and we do agree with the doctrinal beliefs of the denomination.  We hold to the EC Church’s articulation of biblical teaching as summarized in the EC Church’s 25 Articles of Faith and book of order called The Discipline

But “faith” is so much more than beliefs and doctrines.  I would go so far as to suggest that if we understand the concept of faith as simply beliefs, then we have misunderstood and misappropriated our faith.  If our faith is just our opinions about biblical teaching, then I don’t believe we have faith.  Because the writer of Hebrews says, “without faith, it is impossible to please God,” it is important that we answer the question: what is faith?  As we will learn this coming Sunday, faith, as it is commonly held, is insufficient to please God.  We need faith that is more than faith.  How can faith be more than faith?  

In our continuing series on the Fruit of the Spirit, we are learning to walk in step with the Spirit, which means growing the Fruit of the Spirit in our lives.  We’ve learned about growing love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and this coming week we’ll study what it means to grow…faithfulness

Photo by Pablo Heimplatz on Unsplash

How the power of the Holy Spirit helps us become more gentle – Fruit of the Spirit: Gentleness, Part 5

This week we welcome guest blogger, Daymarr Jackson. In addition to being Faith Church’s youth leader, Daymarr is a Chaplain candidate in the PA Army National Guard, and a MDiv student at Evangelical Seminary. Daymarr and his wife, Danielys, have two children. This week he continues our series on the Fruit of the Spirit.

There’s a video that I found, and I would like to share with you all to demonstrate the important connection of forgiveness to gentleness.

Corrie Ten Boom’s story is such a powerful story.  She was in a Nazi concentration camp and suffered horrible injustices. Years later a prison camp guard was praying for an opportunity to ask for forgiveness from one of the people he’d hurt. God made a way for it to be her.It was only through being able to keep in step with the Holy Spirit, to be empowered by him, that she was able to forgive, to be gentle.

I could act like I have all the answers, and I could tell you how to be gentle and how to live this this Christian life and walk it out perfectly. But I’m no guru. I’m no subject matter expert. But the Bible says that Christ has sent us a helper (John 14:26), and that he is a friend that that sticks closer than a brother (John 15:12-15). So when we’re struggling to be gentle, when we’re struggling to be loving, when we’re struggling to forgive those who have hurt us, or be understanding towards those who believe or live in a manner that is contrary to our faith, how can we be those believers who are gentle with our words, as Proverbs says, “A gentle word turns away wrath”? (Prov. 15:1)

I realize that it’s so easy to be angry. Everybody’s angry nowadays. It’s the norm. It’s outrage culture. We’re outraged about what’s going on over here. And then we’re outraged about what’s going on over there. Everything that was happening in the Ukraine, it feels like that was years ago. Because now we’re on to something else. Now we’re angry about the shootings and everything that’s taking place. We should have such a righteous anger towards these things. But are we praying about it as much as we’re talking about it? Are we taking it to God as much as we’re posting about it on social media? Are we asking God for answers and solutions? Or are we just being people who want to stir up strife and division?

Jesus says in John 13:35, “By this all will know that your are my disciples, if you love one another.”  Sometimes I feel ashamed that as a capital C Church, we’re more known for what we’re against, than what we’re really for.  If you really think about it, Christ came to seek and save those who are lost. He came for the sick. He came for the poor, he came for the marginalized, he came for the hopeless, he came from the people struggling with depression, anxiety, mental health. He came for the people who are trapped, who are struggling with their sexual identity. We can alter our bodies and we can alter our minds, but only Christ can really transform the heart. The power of the Holy Spirit can do something much greater than our opinions can.

Let’s ask Christ to do a work in our hearts.

Photo by KEEM IBARRA on Unsplash

The important connection between forgiveness and gentleness – Fruit of the Spirit: Gentleness, Part 4

This week we welcome guest blogger, Daymarr Jackson. In addition to being Faith Church’s youth leader, Daymarr is a Chaplain candidate in the PA Army National Guard, and a MDiv student at Evangelical Seminary. Daymarr and his wife, Danielys, have two children. This week he continues our series on the Fruit of the Spirit.

What is keeping us from being gentle with others? An article that I was reading this week suggests that one of the reasons that we lack gentleness towards others is because we think too highly of ourselves. Another reason that we lack gentleness towards others is because we don’t think that the sin in our life is as bad as the sin in the lives of others. We can become cold-hearted and callous, as we see people struggle with sin.

Jesus once told a parable about this (Matthew 18:21-35). “Peter came to Jesus and asked the Lord, ‘How many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Seven times?” Peter probably thought that seven was a good number, the number of completion. It’s as if Peter is saying, “How about seven, and then I’m done, right?” As if we can forgive seven times and move on.

Jesus says, “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king, who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. And as he began the settlement, a man who owed him 10,000 bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children, all had to be sold to repay the debt. At this time, the servant fell on his knees before him, ‘Be patient with me, he begged, ‘and I will pay everything back.’ The servant’s master took pity on him and canceled his debt and let him go.”

“But when the servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him 100 silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me. I will pay it back,’ But he refused. Instead he went off, and had the man thrown into prison until he can, until he could pay the debt.”

“When the other servants saw what happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that happened. Then the master called the servant, he said, ‘You wicked servant. I cancelled all the debt of yours because you begged me. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servants, just as I had on you?’ In anger, his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured until he paid back all he owed. This is how your heavenly Father will treat you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

This is a picture of many of us. This is a picture of me at times when I know what I’ve done. I know the things that I’ve struggled with, and I know the conversations I’ve had with God. I know the times I plead before the Lord and ask for forgiveness and mercy. He’s been gracious towards me. Yet I know the times where somebody does a little thing to me, and they get a harsh response. Or I hold a grudge in my heart, or I start to treat them differently. I start to have contempt towards them instead of forgiveness. I lack the same gentleness that was given to me.  I do not give it towards them. This is where we get labeled those things that we mentioned in the first post: arrogant, hypocritical, and judgmental, when we cease to be gentle with others, the same way that Christ has been gentle with us.

I love the story in the Gospel of Luke when a woman comes to the feet of Jesus (Luke 7:36-50). This is just such a great demonstration of his gentleness. At the feet of Jesus, she breaks open an alabaster box and she pours out oil on his feet and washes his feet with her hair. Everybody watching is thinking, “She is such a sinner. How dare she even try to get close to him!” Jesus’ response is so gentle, so loving, so gracious, and so caring. He says, “You’re right, I tell you, her sins are many. They have been forgiven. She has shown me much love, but a person who has been forgiven little, shows only little love.” Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.” So the idea here is that those of us who understand that we’ve been forgiven much will forgive much. Those of us who understand how gentle Christ has been with us, and how gracious he has been towards us, will then in return, be gracious towards others.

Photo by Melanie Stander on Unsplash

Questions to ask ourselves to discover if we are truly gentle – Fruit of the Spirit: Gentleness, Part 3

This week we welcome guest blogger, Daymarr Jackson. In addition to being Faith Church’s youth leader, Daymarr is a Chaplain candidate in the PA Army National Guard, and a MDiv student at Evangelical Seminary. Daymarr and his wife, Danielys, have two children. This week he continues our series on the Fruit of the Spirit.

If we have the truth, but we’re going about presenting it in a mean way, how well is it really being received? One of the things that’s going on right now is that were in the midst of Pride Month. During this month the LGBTQ+ community is celebrating its views, which we see on ads and commercials. We believe this is contrary to how God has taught us to practice our sexuality, and it goes completely against the covenant. But the response that I’ve seen from some believers towards this specific community has truly been disheartening. If you have the truth, but you package it in a mean way, deliver it with hate, or just say to people, “I’m just gonna throw these scriptures at you or tell you that what you’re doing is an abomination,” does that truly reflect the heart of Christ?

When we were dead in our sins, when we were when we were lost, when we were without hope, before Christ, how did Christ encounter us? How did he find us? When we think about our worst sins, when we think about our worst moments, how was Christ’s heart towards us? Was he not gentle? Was he not gracious? Was he not forgiving? How do we treat those who have offended us? Do we block them on Facebook? Do we not invite them to the family picnics? Do we avoid them at church? Do we talk bad about them behind their back?

Or are we gentle with them? Do we pray for those who hurt us? Do we love those who hate us? Do we forgive unconditionally as the scriptures tell us to do? How do we treat those who look differently than us? Who dress differently than us? Who maybe have a different color skin than us? Who come from a different cultural background than us? Do we look at them as weird, or do we have a hatred towards them or a different perception towards them because of where they come from?

Do we ever think these thoughts: “Oh, they’re white, so they must be racist.” Or “They’re black, so and they must have a criminal record?” Or “They must come from a rough neighborhood, or they must think this way?”

How do we treat those who have a different political affiliation? Are we gentle towards them? Are we gracious towards them? Do we seek understanding? Can we love even in the midst of our disagreements?

The thing about Christ is he’s perfect. And in his being perfect, he exercises gentleness perfectly. He says, “Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you learn from me. For I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:25-30) I have been reading a book called Gentle and Lowly: the Heart of Christ For Sinners and Sufferers. The idea of this book is that it’s the gentleness of Christ that leads sinners to repentance and brings comfort in the midst of suffering. If gentleness is the posture of Christ’s heart, then that should be posture of mine and ours as well.

The different gentleness of Jesus – Fruit of the Spirit: Gentleness, Part 2

This week we welcome guest blogger, Daymarr Jackson. In addition to being Faith Church’s youth leader, Daymarr is a Chaplain candidate in the PA Army National Guard, and a MDiv student at Evangelical Seminary. Daymarr and his wife, Danielys, have two children. This week he continues our series on the Fruit of the Spirit.

As I was doing research on the topic of gentleness this week, I noticed that there’s not as many articles, sermons and podcasts about gentleness as there are for various other biblical topics and content. The more I dove into this, I realized that the Bible actually has a lot to say about gentleness. Proverbs 15:1 says, “A gentle answer turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath.”  Sometimes we when we’re having a disagreement with somebody, and they’re being aggressive towards us, we feel like we just need to get more aggressive. They’re loud…we just get louder. But the Bible is telling us that a gentle answer turns away anger, and a harsh word stirs up wrath.

Paul says this in Colossians 3:12, “Therefore, as God’s chosen ones, holy and dearly loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” And in Ephesians 4:2, Paul says, “Therefore, I, the prisoner in the Lord urge you to walk worthy of the calling you have received with all humility, and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

I wonder if the reason that we do not talk much about gentleness is maybe because we confuse gentleness with weakness.

Who wants to be weak, right? But Paul, the apostle says that weakness is actually strength. He says this in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, “But then [the Lord] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults in hardships, and persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, I am strong.”

There’s a story in Mark 10:35-37 where the disciples are having this conversation. And a couple of disciples say to Jesus, “We want to be the greatest in in your kingdom. What do we have to do to make this happen?” Jesus responded, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over people and officials flaunt their authority over those under them, but among you, it will be different. For whoever wants to be a leader among you must be the servant of all, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. For even the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve others to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Everything that happens within the kingdom is kind of contrary to what we naturally think, or what we naturally believe. Jesus is telling us that in order to be great, or to be the greatest, that we must become the least, and to serve. The Passion translation puts it this way, “Kings and those with great authority in the world rule oppressively over their subjects, like tyrants, but this is not your calling. You will lead by a completely different model; the greatest among you will live as the one who was called to serve others because the greatest honor and authority is reserved for the one with the heart of a servant. For even the Son of Man did not come expecting to be served but to serve and give his life in exchange for the salvation of many.” Jesus says “it will be different among you” when he talked to his disciples, and the question I have for you this week is, “Is it really different among you?”

What does it mean to practice a life of gentleness so that we are different like Jesus calls us to be? Check back in to the next post!

Photo by Nguyen Dang Hoang Nhu on Unsplash