Bishop Bickerton: Fruit of the Spirit, Words to Live By

Bishop Bickerton: Fruit of the Spirit, Words to Live By


Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton

8/14/2017

Words to describe the times in which we are living are not hard to come by these days.  Words like unpredictable, challenging, and confusing come quickly to mind.  Drill down deeper and you will find words and phrases like crazy, head-scratching, and bizarre bubbling to the surface. Whatever the word, these are times when each day brings a new story that only increases the search for the right word to describe it all.

Depending on which side of the fence you find yourself, it seems that these are either depressing days of resignation or a slice of time when the opportunities for our Christian influence to shine are abundant. These are not days to rest on our laurels or to assume that everything we have leaned on as the “norm” can be relied upon to see us through. Things have been turned upside down and inside out.

In a recent editorial, Brian Klaas, a fellow at the London School of Economics and Political Science, has suggested that what is at work in our midst can easily be equated with the “Seven Deadly Sins.”  You may recall that they are: pride, wrath, sloth, gluttony (lack of self-control), lust, envy, and greed. Klaas believes that we are living in a time when leaders are tempted with, and living out, these “deadly” behaviors: 

  • Leaders are more interested in themselves than the good of others (pride).
  • Leaders are using little restraint in attacking others rather than working with them (wrath).
  • Leaders are not working hard to address deep and challenging issues (sloth).
  • Leaders are acting more on impulse rather than with deep and meaningful collaboration (lack of self-control).
  • Leaders exhibiting behaviors that crave superiority over equality (lust).
  • Leaders are less self-assured as they are jealous of rivals (envy).
  • Leaders are looking for personal gain (greed).
Say what you will, it doesn’t matter what position of leadership you or I hold, these temptations are real.  In the absence of strong discipline, reliable accountability, and deep spiritual centering, these temptations can become harmful acts that alienate and subdue others. 

When these acts are performed by those in leadership and never confronted, they soon run the risk of becoming the norm.  Before long, people might begin to say that this is acceptable behavior or, at the least, pass it off as a character flaw within the person and dismiss it without confrontation. 

These are not days when we can rest on our laurels and assume that ethical behaviors are going to be promoted, proclaimed, and lived as a standard of what is good and right and holy.  They are days when we should be digging deep in a personal soul search for right answers, courageous responses, and faithful behaviors.  Just because the trend or the norm in the midst of these crazy days is somewhat related to the “deadly” behaviors, it doesn’t mean that we should accept, assume, or, worse yet, participate in them. 

Take, for instance, these three separate occasions:
  • I recently returned from vacation in Ireland. While there, a gentleman who knew that I was from the United States approached me and said without any prompting, “As long as there isn’t a nuclear war, we really enjoy your comedy show over here.”
  • In a conversation at a restaurant, a young woman asked the group that I was sitting with this question, “As a millennial, what would you say to a person my age who asks, ‘Why should I believe in God?’You folks can’t seem to provide an answer that is convincing our generation to believe.”
  • A friend of mine shared recently that his daughter’s boyfriend, a professing non-believer, wandered into a local church the other day just to kneel at the altar to pray after he had received news of his father’s death.
These are the kind of stories that reveal that people are watching what we are doing, searching for meaningful answers to questions that we are not addressing, and longing for a deeper meaning in the midst of the realities of life.

So, what WILL we offer them?  How shall we, in the Christian community, counter the trend toward the “Seven Deadly Sins?”

Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, may have given us the answer. We describe them as “the gifts of the Spirit.”  They are: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22) 

But here’s the challenge.  If we continue to exhibit behaviors that either assume that this is the norm to which people gravitate or, even worse, assume that the world around us even knows how to live out these characteristics, we will fall victim to those who are actively promoting, demonstrating, and living out behaviors that have nothing to do with what is good and right and holy.

So, the gauntlet has been thrown down in front of us, dear friends:
  • People are looking at public behaviors. What are you doing to confront the potentially “deadly” behaviors around us and promote the grace-filled characteristics that bring people hope and promise?
  • People want meaningful answers to deep questions. What are you doing to describe what we believe in a way that will convince others?
  • People are longing to have their deep needs addressed. How are you offering them the heart of God?
I long for a day when the words to describe the times in which we are living are these: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  Read them slowly over and over again.  Let them seep into your soul.  Let them be the norm for your life.  Let them be the thoughts in your mind.  Let them be the words on your lips.  Let them be words that describe all that you are and all that you hope to be.

May it be so.
The Journey Continues, . . .

Thomas J. Bickerton
Resident Bishop