Spirit-Filled Relationships

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control...”
Galatians 5:22-23 (ESV)
What does a Spirit-led, Spirit-filled relationship look like? How do you know that a particular home or relationship is being filled with the Spirit of Christ? What does it look like for the Spirit of God to be truly at work in a person’s life? In the famous passage on the fruit of the Spirit, the Apostle Paul gives us some evidences or effects of the Spirit’s work in our lives and relationships. Let's unpack and inspect this fruit together. —

1. Love: What is Christian love? In the Bible, love is the central fruit of the Spirit. Every other fruit is an extension of this main fruit. Christian love is more than a feeling. Our feelings come and go. Christian love is primarily an attitude of the heart towards another person that leads you to take positive actions on their behalf. We might say that Christian love is both wanting the redemptive good of another and willing to do something about it. When love is flourishing in a relationship, both people are on the lookout for ways to tangibly and sacrificially bless the other person.

2. Joy: What is Christian joy? Joy is the glow of love. Joy is different than happiness in that it is not based on what is happening in your life or even how you happen to be feeling. Joy is something deeper. Christian joy is an inner satisfaction in who God is for us in Christ. Joy, you could say, is an inner buoyancy of spirit, an undercurrent of contentment in the soul. Therefore, the glow of joy in a relationship transcends the circumstances that each other are going through because it comes from basking in the love they share together, and ultimately in the deep, all-satisfying love of God.

3. Peace: What is Christian peace? Peace is the stability of love. It is a sense of stability and calm. When Christian peace is operating in a relationship, there is a sense of harmony between the two people despite the difficulties that may occur. When each person is walking in fellowship with God, the inner confidence and psychological stability that that brings will show forth in the way each person handles the disagreements and challenges that will come.

4. Patience: What is Christian patience? Patience is the length of love. It’s the great length that love will go for the other. The more we see that the purpose of life is not to serve me (organizing everything for my benefit), the more we will begin to see the hindrances, obstacles, and problems that we face in life as opportunities to love others. Patience begins to thrive when the mentality of “what can I get out of this moment” begins to die. Our ability to suffer long for one another is tied to our sense of what God in Christ has suffered for us. Patience will wait for the sowing of love to do its work.

5. Kindness: What is Christian kindness? Kindness is the acts of love. Christian kindness is different than cultural kindness because it is more than being nice or passively tolerant. Kindness is the generous and practical expressions of love for the other. It’s a loyalty and compassion of soul that gladly serves the other person at a cost. When the fruit of kindness is thriving in a relationship, you’ll see small and big acts of compassion and generosity sprouting up everywhere.

6. Goodness: What is Christian goodness? Goodness is the flag of love. Goodness is an attitude of the heart that yearns and stretches to see the other person helped and blessed. Christian goodness shows up in ways that are unexpected. Goodness is the flag that reads, “I am for you!” It is going the extra mile. It is thinking of what the other person might want and might need before they even realize it themselves.

7. Faithfulness: What is Christian faithfulness? Faithfulness is the commitment of love. Faithfulness is the type of thing that is promised and captured in a couple’s wedding vows. It looks like tangibly sticking with the other person in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, for better or for worse. When we show up when we don’t want to, when we give when we don’t want to, when we serve when we don’t want to, we can know that the Spirit is at work in our heart.

8. Gentleness: What is Christian gentleness? Gentleness is the strength of love. Gentleness is not weakness. Far from it. Gentleness is the strong arms of love. When a person is able to be gentle with their words or tone, it is the evidence of an incredible inner strength. That inner strength enables the person to carry or handle another’s sins and weakness with the appropriate tact and sensitivity.

9. Self-Control: What is Christian self-control? Self-control is the ordering of love. If I am living for the other’s good, then self-control will lead me to order my life accordingly. It will lead me to say “no” to certain things for the sake of the other. Self-control is the inevitable by-product of having a bigger and better yes. It's the result of living for something or someone other than myself.

But how do these things develop within a relationship? Later on in Galatians 6, Paul gives us the answer—you reap what you sow. “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap” (Galatians 6:9). In the relationships we have, each of us must ask ourselves, “What good seeds have I been sowing in this relationship today?”