One of my favorite lines in the Marvel movie, The Avengers (the 2012 version), occurs when the title team is about to take on an alien invasion. Steve Rogers (Captain America) makes a suggestion to Bruce Banner (the doctor who periodically turns into the Incredible Hulk, when he gets angry):
Steve Rogers: Doctor Banner, now might be a good time for you to get angry.
Bruce Banner: That’s my secret, Captain: I’m always angry.
Some of us might be able to say the same thing as Dr. Banner: We’re always angry. We might be angry today at politics, or traffic, or the boss, or certain family members. Maybe we’re just angry in general (I have moods like this). For those of us who may find ourselves in this condition, if others who know us had to describe us in one word, it would be “angry”.
Alternatively, others of us are always tired (this would be me), or always negative, or always complaining (also me, sometimes). That doesn’t mean that we should be always smiling or ignoring real problems around us. However, when these attributes define us, we may be missing our goal of emulating the righteous life that Jesus modeled for us – the abundant life that He came to bring (John 10:10).
What if, instead of being angry, we were always generous? Or, what if we were kind, patient, joyful, or any combination of the various aspects of the fruit of the spirit?
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
Galatians 5:22-23 NASB
Sure, this may sound like a good idea. However, I assure you – if you just grit your teeth and try to be like this on your own, you’re going to fall short and probably get pretty discouraged. Fruit isn’t something that a tree just decides to make; it is the natural result of whatever kind of tree it is.
In the same way, the secret to living like this isn’t just trying to be something you’re not; instead, it is giving way to the Holy Spirit (once you’ve signed up to be on His side, and are receiving His help from within you). The Holy Spirit is all of these things already, but only when we let Him guide (and help) us, can we naturally show these positive outcomes.
Wouldn’t it be great to have someone come up to you, and say something like “You were pretty ________ back there” (pick your fruit of the spirit), and in your mind – not out loud, of course – you could honestly say, “I’m always ________”.
Along these lines, the ultimate opportunity would be for someone to say, “You’re a Christian, aren’t you?”, and for you to be able to say, “I’m always trying to be like Christ.” Once we are defined by Who we serve and emulate, and not by our shortcomings, then we will know that we are producing the right kind of fruit.