How Reputation Management Masks the Fruit of the Spirit

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1 Corinthians 13:4–7 (NIV)


Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

CONSIDER THIS

If our watermelons were patience then our cantaloupes were kindness. Our truck patch melon business blew up quickly and put us on the map. They even wanted us back in McGehee. We sold watermelons and cantaloupes far and wide, from retail at farmers’ markets to wholesale at grocery stores to a premium home delivery service. The Walt Cousins Inc. discovered Prime way before Amazon did. Our watermelons were good, but the cantaloupes were best in show. Everyone wanted to know our seed variety but we kept it even closer to the vest than the “eleven herbs and spices” in the Colonel’s recipe.

All of this generated quite a reputation for us, and that’s good I suppose as far as our business went. However, when it comes to our own lives this is where the whole project so easily begins to drift off course. It is so easy for the fruit of the Spirit to become all about us, our character, and our reputation. Here’s the thing about the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is never about me and always about you; never about us and always about others. This is the problem of thinking about the fruit of the Spirit in the framework of our virtue and our character traits. The fruit of the Spirit comes from the presence of Jesus who is always oriented toward other people.

We meet many people in life and we come away from them thinking, “he or she is such an amazing person.” There are a few people we meet in life and we come away from them thinking, “Maybe I am an amazing person.” The former category are good people. The latter category are great people. They are the ones who effortlessly exude the fruit of the Spirit. They have a way of being with people in a way all about the people and not themselves because they have forgotten themselves. Self is no longer a category of reference for them; only others. They are neither self-deprecating or self-abnegating or even self-conscious. They have so abandoned themselves to Jesus their lives are referenced around others. They seem to walk in time carrying the capacities of eternity. This is what agape love looks like. Underneath such love is the inward disposition of patience and the outward bearing of kindness.

Just as Galatians 5:22 lists the fruit as patience followed by kindness, so 1 Corinthians 13 reveals the same: “Love is patient. Love is kind.” The opposite of patience is not impatience but anger and anger is inherently unkind. It is one thing to be tolerant and quite another to be patient. It is one thing to be nice and quite another to be kind. Tolerant and nice people tend to be concerned with their own image and reputation. Patient and kind people tend to be obsessed with the flourishing of others.

That’s the problem with a reputation. It can so easily mask the reality. I have been forever obsessed with a quote I read many years ago. It goes like this: “The one who is known as an early riser can sleep till noon.” Yep, that’s the problem with reputation. It is more about one’s image than their deep identity. When one begins to make that shift, it’s just a matter of time before they are sleeping late and phoning it in. There is a form of patience and kindness that are not coming from the place of divine love (agape) but rather from self-interest.1

The fruit of the Spirit cuts right through the image management of one’s reputation and straight to the heart of deepest identity. And that will take us right into the heart of goodness. Monday I’m going to take you to a place you have never been. It’s a place of pure goodness. It’s called The Walt Farms Corn Supper.

Wake up, sleeper! We are getting to the “good” part. There is a way of patience and kindness that leads to something less than goodness, but there is a way—the way of agape—leading to the pure goodness of God.

THE PRAYER

Father Farmer God, make of my life a farmers’ market. Make of the garden of my inmost being a place of the patience-and-kindness-filled fruit bearing of love. I want to be so captured by the patience and kindness of God that it becomes, in me, instinctive, impulsive, compulsive, and compelling—governed by your Spirit. Holy Spirit, orient my patience and kindness to be about the people around me and not of trying to put the best face on my broken ways. Praying in Jesus’s name, amen.

THE QUESTION

Who do you think of in your present life and history as being filled with patience and kindness? Have you ever tried to act patient and kind knowing it was not real in you? In other words, have you ever tried to appear better than you actually are?

THE HYMN (We sing on the Recording)

Today we will sing the hymn, “My Hope is Built,” on page #102 of our newly released Seedbed hymnal Our Great Redeemer’s Praise. 

For the Awakening,

J.D. Walt
Sower-in-Chief
seedbed.com

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NOTES FOR FURTHER REFLECTION

  1. Yes, we all know patience and kindness can be faked; at least for a while. The real test is at home. We can pull off pseudo patience and kindness at work because we don’t want others to think poorly of us. At home, we tend to let our guard down; which is another way of saying we are most truly ourselves. In other words, we don’t fake it at home. If you tend to be impatient and unkind at home, then you are an impatient and unkind person.The fruit of the Spirit cuts right through the image management of one’s reputation and straight to the heart of deepest identity. It’s why I love that one of John Wesley’s questions he and his bandmates would frequently ask one another was this one: “Are you trying to appear better than you are?” This is not about self shaming but becoming piercingly honest with oneself. This requires stepping out of the stealthy shadows of self deception.

 

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WHAT IS THIS? Wake-Up Call is a daily encouragement to shake off the slumber of our busy lives and turn our eyes toward Jesus. Each morning our community gathers around a Scripture, a reflection, a prayer, and a few short questions, inviting us to reorient our lives around the love of Jesus that transforms our hearts, homes, churches, and cities.

Comments and Discussion

3 Responses

  1. You beautifully described what I’ve been trying to say about self!

    “They have a way of being with people in a way all about the people and not themselves because they have forgotten themselves. Self is no longer a category of reference for them; only others. They are neither self-deprecating or self-abnegating or even self-conscious. They have so abandoned themselves to Jesus their lives are referenced around others.”

  2. This one today is special. Really special. Not only is it built around possibly my most favorite verses in the Bible, but it cuts to the core about love. And God IS love. This was is beautiful. Thanks for that.

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