Related Verses: John 15:1-11; Gal. 5:19-26; Eph. 4:25-27
Leading Question: Does the Holy Spirit sometimes point us away from the gentler traits to the sterner ones?
The only New Testament passage that actually admonishes believers to be angry is this one from Ephesians 4.
Ephesians 4:25-27 (NRSV): So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. 26 Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and do not make room for the devil.
One could perhaps describe this kind of anger as the “anger of communication.” It finds an echo in the words of William Blake (via C. S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm, pp. 96-97
I was angry with my friend:
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.
But beyond this “anger of communication,” the New Testament rather consistently points the believer away from anger. Patience is on all of the New Testament virtue lists; anger is on none of them. Indeed, note how the “negative” works of the flesh contrast with the fruit of the Spirit:
Galatians 5:19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, 21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
22 By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another.
Notice how many of the “works of the flesh” are the unhappy traits: “enmities, strife, jealousy, quarrels, dissensions, factions, and envy.” These are not the gross sins, but are the sins of every day life. The spirit wants to point us away from such traits.
The Lesson of the Vine: John 15:1-11. In the famous parable of the vine, note how the easy it is for the inspired writer to speak of “being in Christ” but also of having “Christ in us.” Some of the same mysterious shifting is found when the work of the Spirit is described. The Spirit can be in us: “He lives with you and will be in you” (John 14:17). The reverse can also be true: we can be “in the spirit” (cf. Rev. 1:10).
Summary: The positive virtues represented by the fruit of the spirit are more definitive of holy living than words like “holiness” or “righteousness” would suggest. “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness” describe the kind of beings that belong in God’s kingdom, and do so in ways that the more abstract nouns cannot. And the Holy Spirit is given the task of seeing that this fruit becomes the core of human existence.