My husband promised he only needed one more woodworking tool. It was expensive, but it would allow him to do all these different wonderful things – things he couldn’t quite do without the RIGHT tool. The RIGHT tool makes all the difference, you know?
Last week, in Answering Anger: How to Avoid the Blow-Up, I asked “What is the opposite of anger?” I did, quite literally, ask this question on social media. The responses aligned with several of my own thoughts: peace, love, joy, forgiveness, patience, self-control. Grouped together, they immediately reminded me of a similar line-up in scripture; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
I flipped through my Bible hastily until I found it. I read it over and over. What did these things have to do with anger? None seemed to fit as the polar opposite of anger, but put together, they formed the toolbox to prevent and hold anger at bay.
Love for the person who has wronged you.
Joy in the face of painful emotions.
Peace in the raging storm.
Patience for the repeated failures.
Kindness as undeserved mercy.
Goodness to others in their best, not worst intentions.
Faithfulness to hold fast when you want to run.
Gentleness responding to a harsh word or frustrated child.
and Self Control holding back the building emotions.
But how do we get that toolbox?
Fruit of the Spirit
To understand this passage, I looked at it in context this week. Galatians is a letter from Paul to the churches of Galatia. Comprised of 6 chapters, reading the whole letter takes about 20 minutes (see endnote).
Galatia is more of a cultural/regional name than a town, but what is important to understand is that Paul is writing to a group of Gentiles. To get the awkwardness out of they way, the beginning of the book talks a lot about circumcision. Jews (who were commanded to be circumcised under Old Testament law) were trying to impose the same on Gentile believers.
This rule was a reminder of the bigger picture: rules don’t save us. Our salvation flows from faith, not works. The law shows us our sin. The law doesn’t save us: “Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” (Galatians 3:2b)
A few verses before we are introduced to the “fruit of the Spirit.” Paul writes this: “For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love..“
What comes through the Spirit? The hope of righteousness by faith. Christianity is not magically making all the right choices, but it is also not the hopeless cycle of being stuck in sin. Anger makes me feel hopelessly stuck in sin. Through the Spirit comes the hope of righteousness. The fruit of the Spirit is redemption, not perfection.
The same faith that saved me leads me to love others. It leads directly away from anger. The Spirit of God is alive in us. The tools to combat anger are evidence of the Spirit in me.
I will never work my own sin out of me. Only the Spirit of God does that. Anger isn’t a habit I can kick. The Spirit of God turns my self-love into loving others, despair into joy, turmoil into peace, annoyance into patience, vengeance to kindness, regret into goodness, fickle affections to faithfulness, harsh reproofs into gentleness, and unchecked emotion into self-control.
Have you ever watched an “unboxing” video? Someone has received a new and exciting item to review, probably for a deep discount or free. The reviewer will set up a nice camera angle and talk about how beautiful the box is and how luxurious the packaging feels. When the box is open the reviewer gives you her first impression of the product, gushing about the color, feel, or intuitive design. Later she may do a more in-depth review after trying the product out for several days or weeks to show you how well the product held up.
As a Christian, I’m probably at the point where I can give you an in-depth review and tell you that the Spirit’s work in my life will last and has carried me.
But I can imagine a new Christian unboxing this toolbox. Seeing all the fruit the Spirit of God promises. Reading the instructions on faith working through love. Can you see the excitement? Can you hear how this will feel compared to her old life stuck in hopeless sin? The anger she wants rid of doesn’t control her. The shame she feels doesn’t own her.
Open the toolbox. Unbox it.
. . . . .
Unlike my dear husband, you don’t need one more tool.
If you have savingly believed in Christ, you have all the tools to combat anger.
Faith is the toolbox.
The faith that saved you is the faith that leads you to love others.
You aren’t stuck in your sin.
You have the hope of righteousness by faith.
Reading the Bible takes less time than you think. For a neat infographic on each book, check here.