When we think about marriage in relation to the fruit of the spirit, we find that just like we need all of the fruit of the spirit in our lives as Christians, we also need all of the fruit of the holy spirit in our marriages.
For a reminder, here are the fruits of the holy spirit found in Galatians 5:22-23 are:
Love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The scripture says that against these things there is no law. In this post, we will look at the fruit of the holy spirit in this devotional specifically for married couples.
It’s hard to imagine a wedding ceremony that does not mention the word love at least one time. Many traditions have some version of this universal concept. In the Christian tradition, love is specifically mentioned and explained in detail.
So what is it about love that gives us trouble? Or better yet, what is it that gives us trouble and keeps us from love? This is a complicated question that we will need to explore in additional posts, but the word of God tells us that separation, distance, and disobedience are a few of the main issues that cause obstacles to a life, or marriage, filled with love. The word that is specifically mentioned is sin, however like the word love this can be a heavy and sometimes difficult word to break down. We can usually understand what sin means better in an example. Perhaps this is why, in the same passage as the Galatians 5:22-23 passage, just before this we receive an explanation of the lifestyles that are sinful. The bible says that the acts of the flesh are “sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery, idolatry and witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy, drunkenness, orgies, and the like.” If we are ever wondering what is affecting the love within our marriage, or even more so our relationship with God, we can find it in this list in one form or another.
The good news is that wherever we find ourselves at any moment in our marriage, we don’t have to deal in these things that separate us from God and one another and we don’t have to stay there. The thing that we should remember about love is that we need to be kept in love by God. He is love and he is the one who will keep us there when we are blessed by Him.
Joy is the unspeakable emotion that is built and based on what God has done for us. In our marriages, joy is the result and evidence that we have been with God and that we are God. In the book of Hebrews, joy is described as the reason that Jesus endured the cross.
The passage, Hebrews 12 reads, for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising shame, and is set down at the right hand and the throne of God.
In other words, the reason that Jesus gave his life for us on the cross was joy. We often think that the reason was to reconcile us with God, free us from sin, and give us eternity with him but these are the results of him giving his life. The reason is joy. He was unspeakably joyful to give his life.
When we understand this, we may have a better outlook on our marriages. We don’t do things for our spouses for a result. This misconception might also come from the illustration of the fruit of the spirit. After all, the fruit is the result that we can see. But it is rather a result of love rather than the aim of love. In the same way, the joy is what we protect. The joy that our loved ones give us is the reason why we do the things that we do. This is why we buy flowers, this is why we plan a special date night. This is why we treat them so very well. It’s not to have a good marriage. It’s because of what was there before we did anything. When we have this as our outset we are better prepared for a truly loving and fulfilling life together.
I’m convinced that peace is one of the things that we know we want in a marriage but are not always sure how to get. One of the reasons for this is because often we wait too late. We want peace after we are in trouble. We want peace when words have been exchanged. We want peace when we have made a decision that does not include our spouse. The truth is that if we want peace sometimes the same way we got into trouble is the same way we get back to peace. Now, yes, the bible does say that love covers a multitude of sins. But be careful not to take this passage and run with it thinking that there is also not some work involved on our part. If we are in trouble, we may need to pray and discuss how we got to this place in the first place. If we have exchanged words, we may need to exchange a few more that include grace and a good apology. If we have made an important decision without our spouse, we may need to take a new action that fully involves them this time around.
God says that he will lead us beside still waters. This is yet another illustration of our lives. But he must be fully involved at each step of the process. Recently, I was reading a recipe and I noticed that the instructions called for some of the same seasonings to be applied to each step of the process. I thought to myself, why can’t I just put all of these seasonings in at the beginning or the end. I was showing my lack of culinary expertise. The instructions went on to explain that some of the same seasonings need to be applied at each step of the process to ensure that the food is seasoned properly. Skipping the seasoning in any of the individual steps would affect the overall flavor. So it is with peace. We need to ensure that peace is included in each part of our marriage however large or small. If we skip this step it will affect the overall flavor or our marriage. We may think we can skip a step without anyone noticing, and yes, maybe just once will not have the same effect as skipping multiple times, but the point is if we want our full flavor and for the ingredients to fully agree, we need to follow the cookbook carefully.
This is a word that we hear more often when talking about student loans or account status, but the biblical definition of forbearance is to endure or to put off. Another way to think about this is to suffer, and the King James version describes this as longsuffering. That’s not a word that we use commonly anymore but it does help to get the fully effect when we consider this version as well.
Forbearance represents what we all experience in marriage as we experience the challenges that come with this choice. What we should understand is that this is a part of marriage, not the exception. But we also need to understand that the suffering that we experience is not a judgement about our spouse. It’s what we experience as we make the decision to take part in the most holy, wonderful, adventure of our lives. We understand this suffering when it comes to other types of experiences. Another illustration in scripture is that of the athlete. We know this as an Olympian in our culture. The athlete knows that there will be training that will cause a great deal of pain but the pain is a consequence of achieving the goal, or reaching the prize. We don’t use that pain to judge the sport that we are participating with. We don’ t say because of the hardship and even injuries that I’m facing as a track runner then track must be bad.
But often times this is what we do in marriage. We say that because of the emotions we are feeling or something that occurred in our marriage that it must be because of our spouse or marriage itself. But the goal of a Christ-centered marriage is to remember that the aim is not to lay this responsibility on our loved one. Yes, there will certainly be times when we know we are wrong and need to do better. But it’s much different to hold one another to blame because we are misplacing how we feel about the difficulty that we are feeling in our marriage.
Always remember the athlete who knows that these challenges are not to blame but rather the greater the challenge the greater the reward that we are set to receive.
Although the fruit of the spirit are the result of Christ’s joy, kindness is something that we are blessed to engage in when we recognize that we need to. Acts of kindness are commonly shared to show appreciation to someone or when we know they are in need. They are wonderful tools of evangelism as we witness to others.
In marriage, kindness is all of the above. It’s a must at the most basic level. It’s a sign of respect and again, appreciation. Kindness needs to be present even when there is a difference of opinion. It’s the conduit that allows everything else to go well in any relationship but especially in a marriage. If you are faithful to keep kindness as a cornerstone, you can expect to be resolved more quickly when you disagree.
Goodness is the fruit of the spirit that is self-explanatory but no less important. We need goodness to remember the nature of God. We say that He is good but we need to exercise this practice to be sure that we are keeping it. After all, the scriptures tell us that faith without works is dead. This is related to goodness, because the works that we practice keep us in good standing. No, of course we can’t earn salvation. But we are called to keep up the right practices that will bless our life together.
The common quesion that is shared in faith based wedding ceremonies before wedding vows are shared is, “do you take this person…forsaking all others?” This is a reward of our dedication to one another. The aim that achieves this reward is foremost putting God first in our lives. When this happens, and only then, will we be able to consider our spouses as a top priority. After all, the bible tells us that without faith we can do nothing. Imagine if, in this case, we are not able to do anything in our marriages without first honoring God as we should. Yes, faithfulness to our spouse should be our goal. Just remember that this is not a goal that we will be able to achieve directly. First, we must be able to be obedient to God and alight with Him. Then, we will be able to remain faithful with one another.
Very similar to kindness, but with a slightly different purpose, gentleness is the doorway that will take us places that nothing else can. For example, the scriptures tell us that when a brother or sister are struggling, it should be the gentle person, and only the gentle person who should go to see them and restore them in the faith. The purpose for this is because if the person is not gentle, they might provoke the person to anger. They might transmit judgment and have the opposite effect from restoring them. So the person who is patient, meek, slow to anger is the one who is called to intercede.
This couldn’t be more relevant to marriage. Of course we may call in our friends, pastor, and therapists for our difficult moments. But when it is something that we need to work out directly, it’s even more important that we learn to be gentle with out spouses. Perhaps this is not a natural gift or tendency for us to be gentle. Well, we can always access the Holy Spirit for this purpose who will teach any person to be gentle when it’s most needed.
Especially in our current world, self-control is the blessing that will keep us in a good place. This is another gift of the spirit that keeps us from doing certain things but perhaps even more importantly from saying certain things. Can anyone relate that the most critical things that happened in our marriages or the things that we really wish we could go back and change or do differently is not something that we did but something that we said? This is because there is power what we say that reaches us on a completely different emotional level. But when we master self-control, we fear causing further separation with our loved one and we are willing to wait to respond. We are willing to not respond any way that will not be helpful.