The Word in the Wings
The Word in the Wings > What is Alive in Us?
What is Alive in Us?
BY: AUDREY HAMMITT
Growing up, I attended a Christian program for kids called Awana. One of the songs we sang was about the fruit of the Spirit. Although the song is a catchy way of memorizing the fruit of the Spirit (found in Galatians 5), it provides only a superficial understanding of what the fruit of the Spirit is (not a coconut, banana, or cherry). As a child, I viewed love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control as qualities to strive to embody. However, I was probably in high school by the time the Spirit helped me understand what the term “fruit” actually meant. The moment God illuminated my mind and eyes to comprehend that the fruit of something is the result or evidence of something, I was thrilled that these qualities come from the Spirit, not my own efforts. I am grateful for how God matures us and deepens our faith, even in relation to scripture or themes we have become familiar with.
So if the fruit is produced by the Spirit, do we have a part in its production, or can we sit back and let God do His thing? In studying Galatians personally and during Glorify Dance Theatre’s Bible studies, I learned more about the context of why Paul is writing to the church in Galatia, which is to call out those believers for thinking something (circumcision, in this situation) is needed in addition to the grace of the gospel of Christ in order to be saved and a part of God’s family. Paul highlights the selfish and divisive motives of the people who wanted to lead the church astray. God speaks through Paul to say that Jesus set us free from the chains of sin and the penalty of the Law, since He was the only one who could obey God perfectly. This focus on Christ and freedom provides the lens through which to view what a life looks like when it models Jesus’ life, thus producing the evidence, or fruit, of His life in us.
It is important to not view Christ’s forgiveness as a free pass to act however we feel like; rather, we should consider whether our lives express love for God and for others. “For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters, only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become enslaved to one another” (Galatians 5:13). One question we can ask ourselves is, “Who are we loving with our actions and thoughts?” Before Paul lists what the fruit of the Spirit is, he gives examples of what the desires and works of the flesh are in verses 19-21. It interests me how these works of the flesh are in direct opposition with God, others, and even our own good. For example, idolatry can be viewed as a sin against God, strife as a sin against others, and debauchery as a sin against ourselves. Ultimately, every sin is against God and causes further brokenness in the rest of our relationships and lives. I imagine these works of the world as rotten fruit revealing a darkness or disease in the tree, paralleling the good fruit of the Spirit, which reveals the light and life Christ gives us. As Luke 6:43-45 says,
“No good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit; for each tree is known by its own fruit. For people do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they pick grapes from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good, and the evil person out of evil treasure produces evil, for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks.”
Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection has literally given us a new way of life! Not only was He able to live the perfect life we never could, He now enables us to walk in His ways through the gift of His Spirit in us. Life must be lived out, not merely in word, but also in deed. Whereas Galatians discusses how we are not saved by our works, let’s compare that with James 2:14-17, which highlights how good works are the evidence and completion of our faith in Jesus. James asks his audience,
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
Next, this talk about fruit draws my mind to John 15:1-5, wherein Jesus tells his disciples:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.”
So as my kind and loving actions to my earthly father reveal my gratitude for the life he has given me and my identity as his daughter, so also my kind and loving actions to my Heavenly Father and others reveal my gratitude for His gift of eternal life and my identity as His daughter.
Consider the relationship between a choreographer and a dancer. The choreographer shows, teaches, and guides the dancer in the choreographer’s vision for a dance. The dancer must demonstrate that vision in their own body. Doing the given steps honors the choreographer better than if the dancer showed up on stage and did whatever they wanted to at that moment. Likewise, we better honor and reflect God when we obey His commands for how to love well (not indulging in what does not please God). I’m encouraged that God, as our life’s choreographer, is not limited or flawed, and He knows what is truly good for us, so we have assurance that His ways are worthy to be followed. Through His Word, He has directed us in how to dance through this life and grow in communion with Him and others. I believe that as God moves in our lives, we can actively partner with His Spirit by loving our neighbor, thus letting His Spirit bless others. May we take every opportunity to keep in step with the Spirit, while also remembering He mobilizes and inspires our hearts to do and desire what is pleasing to Him.
As we dance Alive in Us, we get to physicalize the evidence of the Spirit, which can grow our understanding and appreciation for what it feels like and how it can be expressed. I’ve felt like this season’s performances so far have stirred up an internal joy and peace in me, which makes me imagine how the Spirit might move and dance, welling-up and overflowing to share with everyone around me. The dances in Alive in Us are based on internal truths that are founded on the Spirit’s presence in each of us, not on external circumstances, although through the Spirit we can respond to the hard and good things in our lives with hope and assurance. Another quality of the Kingdom of God this show emphasizes is unity and community. In the piece Love, we at one point make a circle and lift each other’s hands up in a ripple effect. This movement expresses building each other up, which has a multiplying positive impact on others as well as blesses us. I hope to dance these pieces in a way that honors God, my friends and sisters in Christ on stage, the body He has created, and the audiences that get to see them. As we look to Christ, He enables us to see each other with humility and love. Our finale, “Come Alive in the River,” makes me think of the Spirit as a river of living water, constantly flowing from the Father. In life, we have the choice to join that flowing river or not. Like a strong, steady stream, God’s heart is always flowing out to us, yet if we choose to serve ourselves and do what feels good, we reject God.
If anyone reading this is growing weary in doing good, take heart. Paul knew some in the Galatian church would also be tempted to feel the same.
If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh, but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit. So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all and especially for those of the family of faith. (Galatians 6:8-10)
I believe that Jesus gives us life, not only eternally, but abundantly right here and now. He is our very present help, and He enables us to follow Him and wait patiently for the harvest to come.
Scripture quotations in this post are from the New Revised Standard Version.
Join Glorify Dance Theatre on November 10-11, 2023 for a Mixed Repertoire performance that includes Alive in Us! Tickets are available here.
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