The fruit of the Spirit is peace

In an earlier post, I wrote about pacifism, and mentioned that I was reading this book,  Stop the Next War Now: Effective Responses to Violence and Terrorism, and hoped to blog further as I reflected on what I read.

My progress has been slow, distracted as I am with too many other things, but I’ve come back to it this evening after reading the foreword by Alice Walker.  She describes in that section her experience of being arrested for protesting America’s war in Iraq.  She says that after being arrested, in the squalid gaol cells, she and her companions experienced “the ecstatic nature of impersonal love…whose inevitable companion is not only peace, but…joy.”

That triad of nouns caught my eye.  Love, peace and joy; the first three of the fruits of the Spirit listed in Galatians.  As near as I can tell from the internet, Alice Walker is not a Christian, but I wonder if she is familiar with that text, and if it shaped the way she put this experience into words.

But it also made me look at the text with fresh eyes.  So often I think we read that in a way which assumes that the fruits are personal, interior and individual; as if somehow the indwelling Spirit will be at work in your heart, making you more loving, joyful, peaceful, and so forth, in a way which has few or no implications for your social and political commitments and involvements.  Reading this made me ask, what if it’s the other way around?  What if the Spirit impels us to social commitments and political involvements, to work towards the realisation of the kingdom on earth, and only as we live and move and act in accordance with that call do we feel the interior and subjective aspect of that?

Of course, the ethical and apostolic imperatives to political and social action stand either way.  But perhaps, if we need a selfish motivation as well, the idea that internal holiness might depend on our willingness to cooperate with the Spirit in these matters is not such a bad one to ponder.

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