I’ve been thinking a lot lately about these three words – love, joy, and peace. They’ve been on my mind for several different reasons, but at the top of the list is the negativity that I see around me. When you turn on the TV, it’s there. When you shop in Wal-Mart (or any other store), it’s there. When you scroll through Facebook or Twitter or your email, it’s there. When you go to a meeting of any kind, it is often there. Sometimes, even in our homes and in our congregations, it is there. I’m wondering…where is the love, joy, and peace?
If you asked almost anyone around you if they want to have love, joy, and peace in their lives, the answer would undoubtedly be “yes!” And yet, it often doesn’t seem to be displayed in their facial expression or their actions or their speech. What could the problem be?????
I think the Apostle Paul, who was inspired by the Holy Spirit to write the letter to the Galatians, might have addressed this problem for us. In chapter 5 he gives two lists.
That first list deals with the desires of the flesh which are: “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity (hatred), strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these” (Gal. 5:19-21 emphasis added).
Some of those negative people I am often surrounded by, and by whom I’m sometimes influenced, are found in this list. Sometimes we want to pick and choose and make some of those sins worse than others. However, sin is sin, and some of those words describe them (and sometimes me).
Those words come with a warning attached: “…those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (vs. 21).
Thanks be to God that Paul gives another list that begins with those three words I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about – love, joy, peace. It is called the fruit of the Spirit.
That list begins with love (agape) which is a quality I must have inside of myself if I am going to face a negative and hateful world. I must have a sacrificial love for God and for others if I am to survive.
When that kind of love exists in me, I can’t help but have joy in my life. I remember the words in James 1:2, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds…” Don’t you think that dealing with negativity on every side could be considered one of those trials we are called upon to endure? Tests and trials in life have a purpose and James goes on to explain that purpose, but I can view those trials in a different way because the love of God dwelling inside of me creates a joy like no other.
But, can we be at peace in a world that seems so full of turmoil? I truly believe we can, when love and joy are dwelling within us. Paul describes it this way, “…the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:7).
So, the next time you are surrounded by negative people or thoughts or words or actions, stop and think about the wonderful fruit the Spirit offers us – love, joy, and peace.
AUTHOR: Donna Faughn