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"No Cure for the Summer Time Blues?"

As I sit writing this article even my hands are sweating. I stop to look outside at the really silly people who have obviously convinced themselves that laboring in the furnace, that is the Texas summer heat, is a good idea. I scoff and then proceed to write again. However, I find it rather difficult to concentrate on writing because the air conditioner is yelling at me saying, "Please! If you have a decent bone left in your body, let me have a break! I've been running non-stop for six weeks now!" I reply in a rather irritated tone, "I don't care if you've been running non-stop since Christ's ascension. You will stop when I pull the little lever-thingy up on the control panel!" Great, now back to the article. Ah yes, summer… As you might be able to see it's very hard for me to concentrate when I'm not comfortable. I'm sure you share my sentiment. We're often irritated, grouchy, lethargic, and would like it if people would just leave us alone. You might be saying to yourself "Great 'Captain Obvious'. You're telling us what every human being who lives near the equator knows; when it's hot we're moody! So what?" See! With a response like that you must be grouchy too! And that's what I want to talk about. As Christians we know we shouldn't act this way, but it doesn't change the fact that, when the atmosphere feels like we live on the surface of the sun or when any number of other things stress us, we often lose our holy countenance.

I want to begin our look at attitudes in Galatians chapter 5. In verse 13 Paul states: "You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other." The Galatian church had been bickering amongst themselves (maybe caused by the extreme heat in the region no doubt). As Christians we're saved by grace, but as Paul states, this doesn't give us a license to sin, especially towards one another. He goes on to tell us what unacceptable behavior looks like in verse 19: "The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God." This is the black list that tops all black lists. Remember that biting remark you made to "Captain Obvious" earlier? It sounded like a fit of rage to me. Wanna ask for forgiveness? Yes… I know you really didn't make that remark! I'm just guessing at what you might be saying out there. Back to our subject! So how are we to respond? James sets this out pretty clearly in chapter 4 staring in verse 1: "What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God." Do you pray to God to deliver you from your sin … the sin that sits like an angry little demon on your shoulder, telling you to act badly towards your fellow Christian? Yes, it is God who causes the oppressive sun to rise, the tree to fall on your power lines, the woodpecker to bore a hole in the tree next to your bedroom window at 3 AM. However, God expects us to react differently. Paul lays this out later in Chapter 5 in the famous Fruit of the Spirit passage in verse 22-26: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other." When we're feeling irritated it's hard to exhibit just one of these traits let alone all of them. Yet this does not give us license to act according to the flesh. We must "keep in step" as Paul said. But when we act according to the works of the flesh we're "out of step".

I'm not saying that we'll feel like gumdrops and lollipops every time we come indoors from being cooked alive in the afternoon sun or come home from the worst day of work in the history of work days. But we should restrain the monster that's looking to punch the first wall it sees. God expects us to display love instead of hatred, joy over pessimism, peace verses angst, patience rather than intolerance, kindness that overwhelms callousness, goodness that conquers evil, gentleness in the place of violence and self-control instead of rashness. In essence, God expects good, not rotten fruit from those who abide in the Vine. So next time you hear the voice of your sin (that little monster sitting on your shoulder) telling you to curse your neighbor, simply turn to him and curse him out! Just kidding! Tell your sinful self, "I'm going to pray that God will develop the Fruit of the Spirit in me." That's like putting your sinful self in the corner, setting a dunce hat on your head, and telling yourself, "Don't get up till you repent of your horrid attitude. So there!"

- Jordan McGehee