16 November 2022

Grace is a fruit of the Spirit.

Paul’s list of the Spirit’s fruit in Galatians 5 is not a comprehensive list. Wasn’t meant to be. Plenty of other fruit, like generosity, forgiveness, and humility, oughta be overt and obvious in Christians who follow the Spirit. But Christians who suck at fruit in general, who struggle enough with faking the few items Paul enumerated, immediately squawk when I make mention of other fruit: Stop adding to the list! But if they were truly trying to follow the Spirit, they shouldn’t have to protest; we’d already see this fruit in ’em.

And if they already exhibit love, they should already exhibit grace.

God’s love is what generates his grace. Love, like Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians, “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” 1Co 13.7 NKJV Love forgives all, takes the optimistic view, and grants unmerited favor to people because we simply love ’em as God loves them. Because the Spirit within us wants to use us to spread more grace.

Those who don’t do grace, are always looking for ways to merit the favor. Fr’instance, “Everybody has potential.” They love the unloveable because they’re hoping their love will change these people, just like it does in their favorite romantic comedies. They figure their love will break these people, show ’em the error of their ways, get ’em to repent, make ’em want to be a good person from now on. You know, like Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, or Darth Vader in Star Wars. Yea, happy endings!

But offering favor because of someone’s potential, isn’t grace. It’s a karmic bet. One which often won’t pay off in real life; some people are far too set in their ways to ever make them pay off the time and attention we show them. But worthiness isn’t the point; never was. The point is to follow the Spirit. Do as Jesus does. Love everyone. Love enemies. Lk 6.27 Love the people who mock and crucify you. Lk 23.34

Luke 6.35-36 NLT
35 “Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. 36 You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.”

The reason people get called “children of the Most High” is because we exhibit his traits—or in other words, his fruit. Grace is one of the Spirit’s most obvious fruit; so obvious it really doesn’t need to be listed. Christians are meant to be known for our love, and grace means our love doesn’t come with strings attached. It’s not about trying to profit off new relationships, not about the satisfaction we feel when our love affects people in positive ways; it’s not even about winning them to Jesus, although that’ll happen. It’s about the fact every human being is a child of God, and if God loves them, so should we.

Unmerited favor—and generous attitude.

Christians tend to define God’s grace as his unmerited favor—and yes, it’s that too. But more importantly it’s his generous attitude behind his unmerited favor. ’Cause imagine the favor without the attitude: “Dammit, I gotta go bail this moron out again. How many times do I have to bail him out? How long before I just don’t? ’Cause I really should. I should just let him go to hell. Serves him right.”

And plenty of Christians claim this is precisely the attitude the LORD exhibits when, time and again, he deals with the rebellious Hebrews in the wilderness enroute to Canaan. Over and over, they push his buttons. Gets to the point where he has to tell Moses,

Exodus 32.9-10 NLT
9B “I have seen how stubborn and rebellious these people are. 10 Now leave me alone so my fierce anger can blaze against them, and I will destroy them. Then I will make you, Moses, into a great nation.”

and Moses has to talk him out of it, Ex 32.11-14 because the LORD really was about to blast the Hebrews to ash. So much for any of that patience and compassion he claims to have later in the book. Ex 34.6-7

Me, I don’t interpret the text that way at all. I look at the LORD’s statement in Exodus 32 as a test to Moses. Sometimes God deliberately acts out of character in order to provoke people to reveal what they know about him, and that’s precisely what this is. Moses having to talk the LORD out of wrath implies Moses has more compassion than God—which is impossible. After all, where’d Moses get his compassion? Duh; it’s the product of spending months on end in the direct presence of the Almighty himself.

When people claim the LORD in the Old Testament doesn’t do grace, and is angry and wrathful and smite-y, you’re dealing with people who don’t wanna see God be gracious—in either testament. They’re deliberately overlooking his grace. (Or “favor,” as translators tend to call it whenever the concept comes up in the OT, reserving “grace” for the New Testament alone.) They want grace to remain a New Testament concept—and like many things in the NT, they wanna project it into the future, claim it’s something that’s largely part of the millennium, but something we don’t have to practice in the present day. Not really. It’s a nice ideal, but grace only applies to salvation and God. We need only bother to do it on extra-special occasions… like when being gracious will convict a sinner and get ’em to turn to Jesus. Otherwise, f--- ’em.

This graceless attitude is all too pervasive in humanity, and too many Christians have never bothered to cast it off after they turned to Jesus. They think they’re justified in feeling nothing for others, and if we show ’em love we’re doing ’em a massive favor. Stands to reason those who are so stingy with love, don’t do grace.

But if we’re following Jesus, we need to be known for our love, and how we’re known for it is by the many acts of grace we commit. By the many good works we do which don’t have an ulterior motive of future rewards and benefits. By the generosity we show to the people who can’t possibly afford to pay us back, Lk 14.12-24 and the kindness we show to people who certainly don’t deserve any. By gentleness in the face of people who rage against us for no reason (legitimately no reason; don’t be a dick!) and peace in the face of chaos.

I could go through Paul’s entire list of fruit of the Spirit—and you can see how the generous attitude of grace needs to be an intrinsic part of all of them. ’Cause of course it’s a fruit.