Working through Galatians 5 where we find Paul giving a description of the fruit of the Spirit, I have come to a phrase which I sense describes a misplaced emphasis. First, Paul describes the work of the flesh and gives a list that in some translations ends with the phrase , “and the like”, to indicate the list is merely representative rather than exhaustive. In contrast Paul writes, “But the fruit of the Spirit is ….” Again we find an ending phrase like, “against such things there is no law.” Another statement indicating a representative list rather than an exhaustive one.
Second, we find “works” is plural while “fruit” is singular. The work of the Spirit is a singular work that expresses itself in atributes that would undermine the works of the flesh and give “flesh” to the character of God being developed in us.
The phrase I have come to that represents a bit of a misstep is, “Presentation over Imitation.” While we tip our hat at the fruit of the Spirit, the intentionality with which we pray for and live out the work of the Spirit is over-shadowed by our insistence on a “proper” gospel presentation; choose the right tract, the right method (EE, CWT, WIN, Share Jesus Without Fear, FAITH) over choosing the right expression (love, joy, peace, patience, etc). So we find it easier to applaud someone who “shares Jesus” verbally than one who “lives Jesus” actively. The proper presentation flows from the proper imitation. We may have had it backwards for sometime.
I am saddened when I hear of a person who goes to a given church and gets “cornered” by well-meaning “evangelists” only to discover they did more harm than good. (True stories abound) I am heartened when I hear of people who go to a given church and find a place where they can share life with people who live out what it looks like to see God (as his character is developed in us by the Spirit of God) and in the process come to faith.
We should be consumed with “Imitation over Presentation.”