The Fruit of the Spirit in Academia, Part 2 (Scholar’s Compass)

apple photoMark Hansard continues his series on the Fruit of the Spirit in academia. Find Part 1 here

Scripture

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. – Galatians 5:22-23

Reflection

In Part 1 of this series, we looked at love, joy and peace, and what it would look like to manifest these virtues in the academy. Today we will look at four more virtues that Paul lists as fruit.

Patience, a translation of the Greek word makrothumia, sometimes means to bear up under difficulties; but most of the time in the New Testament it refers to refraining from avenging a wrong. God has makrothumia towards sinners in Romans 2:4 and 9:22, and he is delaying his judgment of the world so that more can come to him (2 Peter 3:15). When we are filled with the Spirit, we are filled with his patience, even towards those who hurt and offend us.

There is no more relevant place to demonstrate patience with others than the competitive world of the academy. The Spirit’s patience is needed, for example, to answer a hostile questioner during the reading of a paper, or the snide comment of a colleague who believes our work is a waste of time. Demonstrating makrothumia at those times means not shooting back a snide comment, not sarcastically answering a hostile question. It means bearing up under difficulties with colleagues who are arrogant and hard to get along with. When filled with the Spirit we can “be patient, bearing with one another in love” (Eph 4:2). To demonstrate this kind of makrothumia will make you unusual in your department. People will notice.

Kindness and Goodness. If makrothumia is a refusal to avenge, kindness and goodness are positive qualities that God manifests toward us. Kindness is the manifestation of love and goodness toward others. It is often connected to Hesed, God’s covenant love and faithfulness in the Old Testament. And Goodness includes generosity as well as moral uprightness. God is all these things toward us: he is kind toward us (Rom 2:4), he is repeatedly described as good in the Psalms, and Nahum 1:7 says “The LORD is good . . . he protects those who seek refuge in him.”

Manifesting kindness and goodness in the academy would mean helping colleagues or students in need, even if it doesn’t further one’s career. For example, helping a fellow grad student in the lab with their research, when it doesn’t further our own. Being generous with giving credit to those who have helped our research. Helping a student during office hours even when there is a mountain of work to do. It would even mean being generous with help to those who have slighted us (Luke 6:27).

Skipping to gentleness, a translation of the Greek praütés, the word “combines strength and meekness, denoting strength under control,” according to David Dockery. He goes on to explain that praütés “lacks any negative sense of absence of spirit, courage or vigor sometimes associated with the English word gentleness.” We see gentleness manifested in Jesus’ life, as he demonstrated strength under control countless times, but most clearly on the cross, as he refused to use his divine power to save him or to judge his enemies.

Clearly patience, kindness, goodness and gentleness go together as a set of virtues that are similar and mutually support each other. Manifesting praütés, or gentleness, would include a light use of power. All academics have power over students, graduate students, and sometimes other faculty and staff. A commitment to praütés would include a refusal to exhibit heavy-handed leadership, but manifesting leadership with a light touch. It would include a refusal to micro-manage students or staff, but the courage to let them discover and fail on their own. At the same time, it would include encouraging and mentoring students (or staff) as the situation warranted. For department chairs, it would include a commitment to take the time to build consensus, and to ask the question: “what do my faculty and staff need to succeed?”

Our only hope of exhibiting these fruits of the Spirit is to be filled with God. Naturally, we are nothing on our own and have no power to exhibit these qualities. But if, surrendered to him, we move forward with what he leads us to do, we will stand out, in an excellent way, in the university.

Questions

Where could I practice patience, kindness, goodness, and gentleness today? Where is it hardest for me to do that? Where has God given me grace recently to grow in these virtues?

Prayer

Oh Lord, as the semester gets busier and busier, it will be tempting to forget patience, kindness, goodness, and gentleness. We pray that instead we would grow in gentleness, deepen in kindness, more fully reflect Your goodness, and abound in patience. We know that is only possible if we are participating in Your grace and receiving from Your abundance. Let us experience Your generosity more fully and offer it more wholly to others. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

For Further Reading

Dockery, David S., “The Fruit of the Spirit,” in Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, ed. Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 316-319.

Patterson, Richard D., “Fruit of the Spirit,” on Bible.org. https://bible.org/article/fruit-spirit. Accessed September 22, 2015.

Photo courtesy of MarcoRoosink at Pixabay.com

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Mark Hansard

Mark is on staff with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship in Manhattan, Kansas, where he ministers to Faculty at Kansas State University and surrounding campuses. He has been in campus ministry 23 years, 12 of those years in faculty ministry. He has a Master's degree in philosophy and theology from Talbot School of Theology, La Mirada, CA, and is passionate about Jesus Christ and the life of the mind. Mark, his wife and three daughters make their home in Manhattan.

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