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 NIV)

I have been struck by each of the devotions during this Lenten season on the fruit of the Spirit. Each take on the different pieces of this fruit is unique, beautiful, convicting. As I prepared to write on my assigned portion of the fruit, joy, the phrase from the passage that I kept coming back to was, “Against such things, there is no law.” Against joy, there is no law.

It seems too often that the Church defines itself by the things we are opposed to, that are forbidden, that are against the rules or the law. It is a different direction that Paul wants to point the church in Galatia during the first century, and that the Spirit wants to point the Church everywhere at all times. It is certainly true that Paul recognizes the law has a role – to lead us as a tutor leads a child to the truth – but in and of itself the law is not the Truth. The Truth incarnate is the person of Jesus Christ, and in his returning to heaven, he sent us a helper, a guide, the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth. In leading us deeper into the Truth of Jesus Christ, the Spirit produces in us fruit, not governed by the laws of humanity but meant to set us free! Free to live in love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. We are set free to live in joy – not under the law.

I believe those who do not know the Truth will not be convinced by our clever arguments, our Facebook posts, or our Tweets. Rather, people will be convinced by our demonstration of the fruit of the Spirit – especially joy. Joy is living life contrary to the divisiveness around us. Joy is not about finding personal happiness in our possessions but finding fulfillment in our acts of service. Joy is not getting caught up in endless arguments but demonstrating love for the other. Joy is living lives of such hope that people cannot help but see a difference and ask for the reason of our hope even in the midst of hopeless situations, and then joy is being prepared to explain this hope with gentleness and respect, not with arrogance and condemnation! In other words, if the Gospel we are living does not bring a smile not only to our face but to the faces of those around us who yet do not know the Truth, we need to at least consider the possibility it is a different gospel than the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

This Lenten season, let us be defined not by what we give up, or cannot do, or our insistence that others follow the same rules and laws we follow; rather, may we be defined by a joy that draws others to the Good News of Jesus Christ.

—Written by Kerry Bender, VP of International Missions.