On Sunday morning, I’ll be talking about the idea of “faithfulness” as one of the characteristics of the fruit of the Spirit.
What I’m quickly discovering, though, is that, compared to the other characteristics in Galations 5, this one is a little odd. Things like goodness, love, peace, and kindness are easy to grasp. Its easy to appreciate their intrinsic value… but what does it mean for the Spirit to exhibit the quality of faithfulness in the way I live out my life?
Does it just mean, as some say, that it means I am dependable and responsible? I suppose so. But that answer seems a little two-dimensional to me, and it doesn’t seem to fit well into the context of Galatians. Shouldn’t there be more to it than that? (Dogs are dependable, but I don’t think this passage is saying the Spirit will help me have the “dependable” quality of a dog.)
Here are my (few) scattered thoughts ont he subject so far:
I don’t think it is a mistake that the characteristic of “faithfulness” finds its way into a book where Paul is primarily concerned about the faithlessness of people who have traded the gospel in for legalism. To Paul, remaining faithful to a gospel which includes all people – as opposed to drawing arbitrary lines to decide whose “in” and whose “out” – is a pretty powerful idea. Faithfulness, then, is measured by a person’s willingness to accept/include all of those who seek out the Kingdom, as opposed to those who decide to put up walls and draw lines to keep “us” separated from “them”. (Or could it be – because I’m deep into McLaren’s Generous Orthodoxy right now – I am stretching things a bit?)
I also think that it is interesting that, at least in the New Testament, people who are characterized as faithful tend to be those that are being beaten and/or killed (think about Jesus, Paul himself, and Antipas, the faithful witness of Revelation 2). Faithfulness ususally doesn’t lead to comfortable places, at least, in the New Testament.
It may be that one of the reasons its so hard for me to get a handle on this subject is because the faithfulness of God – an idea that is explored rather extensively throughout scripture – isn’t something that gets a lot of attention in my faith tradition these days. Maybe the key is to understand the nature of God’s faithfulness, and then to reflect on how that faithfulness becomes a living expression in the world through the Spirit-filled disciple.
Have a look at Michah 7. I love the possibilities of talking about faithfulness as fruit in this text. (Hint: the word “godly” in verse 2 can also be translated “faithful”).
So: whats missing here? Anyone want to help me out? What does it mean for the Spirit to express himself through the quality of faithfulness on our lives?