|With Jesus as Lord, we share His Love|
Kale or Fruit?
I just watched our yellow housecat use his front paws to pin down his own twitching tail. Then, for good measure, he laid his chin over his tail, too. There's something to be said for that method of self-control.
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! (Galatians 5: 22 – 23).
I think of self-control as one of the least glamorous fruits of the Spirit, but maybe that's just me. In my book, self-control has been right there with patience (translated "longsuffering" in some versions) on the list of things that sound painful to practice. Faithfulness carries with it the idea of work, too, but it still has a hopeful ring. Love, joy, peace! Now those are the feel-good fruits, the all-stars, the glittery, hearts and flowers fruits. Kindness, goodness, and gentleness are the awww! warm-fuzzy fruits.
But self-control? Well, in the past it's seemed kind of like the kale of fruits in the company of sweeter, juicier fruits. How can something that seems to "take away" or "hold back" be called a fruit, anyway? Fruit is about growing and ripening and producing a "something" you can hold in your hand, right? But self-control, a holding back, can almost seem like a "non-fruit," if you will.
One of the most memorable examples I've ever seen of self-control was demonstrated for me by one of our sons when he was just a baby. Our stereo equipment used to be stacked on the open bottom shelf of a library table that had been my great-grandfather's. There were no handy doors to close on an antique like that. That shelf was low enough to be within easy reach of crawling babies. The silver stereo components had shiny silver buttons and knobs . . . oh, my! A crawling baby's ultimate temptation. Well, every time our son crawled toward that stereo equipment, we'd tell him "no," pull his hand away, then turn him around and head him crawling off in the opposite direction. Finally, there came a day when he crawled to that stereo and sat himself up in front of it ready to push buttons and turn knobs. But as he reached for a knob with one hand, he used his other hand to pull his own hand away. Honestly, if I hadn't witnessed it with my own eyes, I wouldn't have believed it.
Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them” (John 14: 21).
For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love (Galatians 5:13).
Over the years, I've come to understand that self-control is a fruit that appears as a result of being Spirit-filled the way fruit develops on a fruit tree that's full of moisture and nutrients from the soil. Self-control relates to our "want to" in regards to obedience. Obedience, ultimately, is about love, love for God and his commandments, and love for others.
But those who obey God's word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him (I John 2:5).
When we're Spirit-filled the way a healthy fruit tree is filled with all things good, in us is produced the kind of self-control that honors God and puts others' needs above our own.
The ultimate example of the fruit of self-control is Jesus praying in agony, yet in loving obedience to the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane:
“My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine” (Matthew 26:39).
The cat had to want to tame his twitchy tail. Our son had to want to obey us more than he wanted to play with those knobs. Jesus had to want, above all else, to submit to the Father's will.
Maybe the fruit of self-control isn't so kale, after all. Maybe it's actually one of the sweetest, most desirable fruits of all.