self-control

Better a patient person than a warrior,
one with self-control than one who takes a city.

Proverbs 16:32

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

In God’s grace in and through Christ and by the Spirit, there are few things more crucial to our lives than maintaining self-control. This may sound unspiritual, as if it is something we are doing ourselves, pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps, as the saying goes.

But as N.T. Wright points out in his book, After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters, moral effort is part and parcel of the equation in God’s grace at work in our lives through Jesus by the Spirit. It is character in formation, and requires work on our part. Beginning with the transformation of our minds. So that our heart as in mind and will and inward disposition, is changed. Then the new way in Jesus spelled out in scripture can become more and more second nature to us, a part of who we are.

Self-control ends up being something we do, inherent in the term. Of course it is by the Spirit as seen in the passage quoted above. And yet we end up having to do it, albeit by the Spirit. As part of our following of Christ together and for the world. What we do is important, as well as what we don’t do.

Hopefully we’ve grown to know better than to say or do something unhelpful in reaction to a perceived wrong done to us. But what about our own spirits before God? Are we submitting to him, to his leading, to the Spirit, when we are tempted to take matters in our own hands?

Best many times to lay low. To bide time. To make such times occasions of drawing near to God, of seeking him and his help. Of retreating rather than advancing or going on in a way that is not wise, according to our own wisdom rather than God’s.

In this life for all kinds of reasons and in all kinds of situations and circumstances we will need self-control. We will save ourselves and others from much grief as we learn to do so. A part of the new life that is ours in and through Jesus. Which we live out not only for ourselves, but for each other and for the world.