“Don’t throw me in the briar patch!” Most of us have heard and understood the purpose of these words uttered by Br’er Rabbit after Br’er Fox had tricked and caught him. Br’er Fox’s ears pricked up at the plea and wanting to put Br’er Rabbit through the worst for all he had done, throws Br’er Rabbit in the briar patch. Since rabbits naturally live among the briars, Br’er Rabbit escaped. Br’er Rabbit used reverse psychology on Br’er Fox and escaped with his life. How many of us have used that same tool to get our children to do something they didn’t want to do. As you look up the concept of reverse psychology, though it’s easy to see that many people use it as a manipulative tool. Rather than appealing to people’s higher instincts, alleged leaders will make people want to do something by running them down. Even though they know that their followers can do it on their own, they use “revere psychology” to manipulate them into accomplishing what the leader wants.
As followers of Christ, we can’t use manipulation to control people into doing what we want them to do, even if we think it’s best for them. We must always appeal to their highest instincts. So for instance, when we say that no one is, or can be, perfect, we don’t seek to manipulate people to living better lives, we are telling the truth. We don’t say that to spur them to do better; we say that to cause them to seek God as the only solution for their sin. While Paul has shown his anger about those who would seek to lure people to follow their own abilities to become better Christians instead of depending on the Holy Spirit, he makes a point to appeal to their ability to trust God instead of telling them what they can’t do. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23)
Just before this passage about the fruit of the Spirit, Paul talked about the works of the flesh. The important thing to recognize is that Paul isn’t prohibiting these acts, even though he says, and we all know that they’re bad, he’s talking about their origin. The works of the flesh come about when we are controlled by our desires instead of being controlled by the Spirit. Paul emphasizes the need to allow the Spirit of God to lead and control us so that we can exhibit the fruit of the Spirit because what the Spirit does for us is far better than what the flesh does. When we look at the acts of the flesh, it’s easy to look and recognize something that we see in ourselves. If we’re controlled by the flesh, instead of the Spirit, we may seek to change that wrong behavior. The problem is that if we’re guided by the flesh, our natural desires, getting rid of one bad behavior may last for a while, but it doesn’t take long for us to substitute a different bad behavior. The key is that we don’t focus on the bad, we focus on the good. We seek to follow God’s Holy Spirit and allow Him to work in us. When we do that, our lives will change to reflect those positive behaviors Paul mentioned as the fruit of the Spirit.
This doesn’t happen because of our work or our effort; it happens because God is working in and through us. Paul began this letter talking about how foolish the Galatians were in their striving to make themselves look good in God’s eyes by their own effort. He reminded them that they came to faith in Jesus Christ through the work of the Spirit and that they should grow in their faith in the same way. This passage puts practical results to that statement. How do people know you? I hope they know you for your love, joy, peace, and all the rest of those attributes he calls the fruit of the Spirit. Paul reminds all of us that as we trust God to work in us, we’ll exemplify those characters in our lives.
Let Your Spirit work in me every day. May I always exhibit the fruit of the Spirit because of Your work.