22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5:22,23
Paul, the author of the Book of Galatians, used the concept of fruit because it created a visual image of the characteristics (or virtues) of Christ. When teaching the Fruit of the Spirit, we always see a chart or pictures of fruit. Most people can recite the nine characteristics, known as the Fruit of the Spirit, but how many look at themselves to make sure these are their (personal) characteristics acquired through their relationship with Christ? Reinforcing the characteristics of Christ, in our children, is the basis for who they will become as adults.
LOVE (parent to child.)
Love is selfless, unconditional love. God loves us unconditionally, without thought, and we should love each other the same way. It is the way Jesus feels about us. This type of love is always giving and impossible to take or be taken. Agape love shows itself in action. (Focus on the Family, Agape Love.)
(Parent to child) It is the way I feel about you when you behave or misbehave when you are sick or well. If you have a pet, use the pets’ relationship with your child. It is when Sam hides your ball, tears up your book, wets on the floor and when he retrieves the toy you threw, sits next to you, and sleeps on your bed. It is Sam being Sam and loving him for it.
JOY (parent to child)
Joy is a feeling of internal (inside) peace. It’s the warm feeling you get when you see Grandma, your new baby sister or, picked out your pet. It is how you feel the love God has for you and the love you have for God. It is a snuggly, warm feeling.
PEACE (parent to child)
Peace is the warm, snuggly feeling of joy and peace we feel in our hearts. Peace comes from the presence of God in our life. It lets you know God loves you by sending his only Son, to strengthen our relationship with Him. When you are using these characteristics (of Christ) in your decision-making, you will experience peace when you make your decision and will know God is with you.
PATIENCE (parent to child)
Patience is how we wait for something. For example, when you get a new pet, you have to be patient while you train him, he will not obey immediately, he has to be taught. When your little brother, sister, cousin, or neighbor is playing with you, and they do not treat your toys the way you want them to, you have to learn to wait without staying angry while they learn how to treat your toys. God wants us to learn to become patient with others, just as he is patient with us. Patience is being kind to others even when you don’t want to. Patience demonstrates how we trust God to answer our prayers while we grow to become more like Christ.
KINDNESS (parent to child)
Kindness is how we treat others, we are not rude, angry, or blaming. It is being generous. It is letting go of how a friend mistreated you and love them for who they are. It means we are concerned about others, such as when a friend gets hurt on the playground; you help them up, call an adult, and tell them everything will be okay. Kindness helps us to become better-caring people.
GOODNESS (parent to child)
Goodness is more than kindness. Your friend got hurt, you were kind because you wanted to help him. The act of goodness is helping him. Many people want to help someone in need but do not follow through. Goodness is following through because you know that is what God wants you to do. It is having a good heart and acting on it. We saw goodness in people during Hurricane Harvey, Irma and Maria. Neighbors were helping each other to survive the storms. Why, because it was the right thing to do.
FAITHFULNESS (parent to child)
Faithfulness is being responsible. If I (mother) ask you to put your clothes in the hamper and you do it, it is being reliable. I can trust you to do what you say you will do. It is being able to be trusted, reliable. Being faithful is demonstrating how Christ feels about us, the is trustworthy and reliable. He is true to his word. Our goal is to become trustworthy and reliable like Christ.
GENTLENESS (parent to child)
Gentleness is not blaming a person for doing something wrong but instead helping them to do better. Gentleness does not show conceit, envy or rudeness. God’s love helps you to become gentle, caring, and kind.
SELF-CONTROL (parent to child)
Self-control is when you stop and think about what you are getting ready to do and decide not to do it because it is wrong and you know Your parent expects a better outcome. self-control is self-discipline. For example, athletes are self-disciplined, they know how they should behave and how to exercise to be their best. The Holy Spirit helps us to have self-control and to behave ourselves.
ABOUT THE PROCESS
The nine characteristics of Christ are very powerful tools. Teaching our children and teens to rely on them is important. We cannot begin the process too early in life., though it is important to keep in mind your child’s developmental stage to ensure they understand the power our Lord has given us. It can be likened to Clark Kent growing up in Smallville, Kansas. Superman learned about and how to use his powers over time, learning to apply the characteristics of Christ in our lives is much the same. It is a process.
Please be patient with the process. This lesson may take a few weeks to teach the definitions to your children and months to reinforce what they have learned. You will reinforce the virtues by asking your children about how they use them. Questions and discussions reinforce what they have learned.
Good questions to ask your children each day during dinner to help reinforce the use of the Fruit of the Spirit in their daily activities:
- How was your day?
- What characteristics of Christ did you use today?
- What did you do and what was the result?
- Is there an instance when you did not use the Fruit of the Spirit, why not, what happened?