Summary: How can we be more like God? By demonstrating God's character. We look at three more wonderful qualities of God that the Holy Spirit wants to produce in us.
Today, we’re having the last in our series on the Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5. We’re going to look at the last three fruit in Paul’s list: faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
I thought I’d do something a bit different to usual today. I’m going to look at three true stories which illustrate these qualities. They’re all from the United States. After each story, I’ll have a short reflection.
The first story goes back to 2016. The place is Baton Rouge, the capital of Louisiana.
On July 5th, police in Baton Rouge attempted to arrest Alton Sterling, a black man. They thought he was reaching for a handgun and shot and killed him. The shooting was recorded by multiple bystanders.
The very next day, in Minnesota, Philando Castile, an African American man, was driving with his girlfriend when he was pulled over by the police. The police officer asked Castile for his license and registration. He told them he had a firearm – he had a license to carry one. The policeman told him not to pull it out. Castile and his girlfriend both said he wasn’t pulling it out. But the police officer shot and killed Castile. In a trial afterwards he said he saw a gun.
These shootings caused outrage. On July 9th, Black Lives Matter protesters came onto the streets in Baton Rouge to protest against police brutality. One of them was Ieshia Evans, a nurse. Evans had travelled to Baton Rouge from New York, where she lived, after seeing news coverage of the shooting of Sterling. That’s 1,500 miles away. This is a photo of her being arrested by police officers.
What has this got to do with the idea of faithfulness? Faithfulness means that you are loyal to someone. You are unswervingly loyal. You stand by them. You look out for them. Black Americans were suffering. Evans was a black American. So, she stood by her fellow black Americans. She showed faithfulness.
Faithfulness is a quality God has in spades. God is faithful to his people. God spoke through the prophet Jeremiah to the people of Israel. He told them, ‘I have loved you with an everlasting LOVE; therefore I have continued my FAITHFULNESS to you’ [Jeremiah 31:3]. Faithfulness is an expression of love.
The people of Israel were often not faithful to God. God, however, continued to show faithfulness to them.
In Azerbaijan, Priscilla and I faced many challenges. But as we went through those challenges and saw how God took care of us, we discovered God’s faithfulness.
God wants us to be faithful in the same way as he is faithful. We need to be faithful to God, faithful to our husbands or wives, faithful to our friends.
Being faithful to God doesn’t just mean that we go on believing in him. We need to be faithful in doing tasks that he gives us. Jesus once taught about servants. He asked, ‘Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, TO GIVE THEM THEIR FOOD AT THE PROPER TIME?’ [Matthew 24:45].
What did the servant have to do for his master to consider him faithful? He had to give his master’s household their food at the proper time. It doesn’t seem too tough! But food is rather important! We can take Jesus’ words in a physical sense. We might need to literally give food to the hungry. We can also take Jesus’ words in a spiritual sense. We need to provide the food of God’s word. I am faithful to God when I prepare and deliver sermons. Jesus’ parable gives us one example of a task. There are lots of tasks God gives us.
But we aren’t only faithful to God. We also need to be faithful to our husbands and wives and friends. Faithfulness isn’t always easy!
The second story is from 2006. It’s also from the United States, this time, from Pennsylvania.
In October 2006, a man called Charlie Roberts opened fire at an Amish school. He shot ten girls, five of whom died. He then shot and killed himself. That is not an example of gentleness. But what happened next is.
Charlie Roberts had a family. He was married to a woman named Marie Monville. We might suppose that people who had lost loved ones would feel bitter towards the family of their killer. But the local Amish community didn’t show bitterness towards Monville. They showed the opposite.
After the shooting, Monville was staying with her parents. She saw a group of Amish men walking down the street and knew they were coming to her parents’ house. Her dad said, ‘‘You can stay inside, I’ll go out and talk with them.’ Then Monville saw the Amish men hug her father. She said afterwards: ‘I couldn’t hear the words they spoke. I saw the embrace. I saw them put their arms around my dad and put their hands on his shoulder. Everything about their gentleness conveyed the words that I couldn’t hear.’