Have you ever heard the phrase- ‘fruits of the spirit ‘and not known what it meant? Or maybe you’ve got it a bit confused with the gifts of the spirit? Then read on…
So, let’s start by finding out what exactly are these fruits of the spirit?
The bible sets them out as;
Gal 5:22-23 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.
Some of the words in that list you will be familiar with, but there are others there that may be less familiar such as forbearance. So, over the next few weeks we will look in detail at each one of them and learn what they mean in the context of the bible and why they are so important to Christians.
The term ‘fruit of the spirit’ is a title for those things you SEE a person displaying and that come from being spirit-filled Christians, a visible overflow of the holy spirit who lives within us. They are not something you can pick and choose to ‘have’ but are a collective term for the natural attributes that a follower of Christ will demonstrate in their daily lives.
They are opposite characteristics in many ways to those displayed by people who have not yet encountered Jesus and are yet to be filled with the spirit. That’s not to say non-Christians never show love, kindness etc.
Gal 5:19-21 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, dissensions, heresies, 21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, reveling’s, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
Take for instance an apple tree, you would expect to see apples growing on it because that is what it is and it can’t do anything else but produce the fruit of its very nature. So it is with the fruits of the spirit, but it’s not just one fruit but nine superb characteristics that shine through us and out of us.
We are going to start by looking at…LOVE! Now I’m sure you all know something about love and when you hear the word love you probably imagine romantic love, being in love or maybe loving a parent or significant other.
But what does love as a fruit of the spirit mean, and is it the same as romantic love?
The bible tells us that love, really isn’t just a ‘Hallmark’ cards kind of thing or even that warm, fuzzy, tingly feeling we get, or even an overwhelming passion but it’s so much more than that;
1 Cor 13:4-8 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love really has been ‘Hallmark’ carded in today’s society and people generally do think of it in terms of romantic love but as you can see from scripture, the love that Jesus talks about is so deep, so wide and so high its hard to comprehend. To love like this, so unconditionally, is our day to day challenge and why we need the power of the Holy Spirit who lives within us to help us.
Now love is not only a fruit of the spirit, but also one of the Ten Commandments given to Moses by God. This highlights just how important love is to God. As a Christian I am daily challenged by the words of Jesus when asked by the Pharisees (who were trying to test Him), which commandment was the most important?
Matt 22:37-39 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’
Jesus made it clear and simple that all you need to do is to love in every circumstance you find yourself in and with everyone you come into contact with, yikes! That’s easy then! It’s so easy to say but much harder to do in reality.
Living in London, I have really noticed the alarming amount of people who sleep rough and have to beg to get food and drink. People are in such a hurry going about their day and almost don’t want to acknowledge what is happening in front of their eyes because it’s just too ugly and the problem is just too big. I have found this particularly challenging as there are so many who need help and it feels like whatever you do isn’t enough.
How can stopping for one make any difference at all? It’s just like a drop in the ocean, right?
WRONG! If we just stop for even one, notice them, talk to them, buy them a drink or a sandwich, we are making them feel valued and when we show love in even the smallest way we are making God visible and that is what we as Christians are called to do on a daily basis. I love Heidi Baker and her ‘Stop for the One’ campaign.
Stop for the One exists to live out the simple Gospel of love through sponsorship programs. We see the simple power of love in action transform the lives of many every day by providing, education, food, care, and love. We believe love looks like something and our desire is to inspire and encourage people to live outside of themselves.
1 John 3:16-18 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
Back to the question earlier about whether the love that is talked about in the bible is the same as romantic love. I would say not. You may disagree with me here and that’s fine because we are all entitled to our opinions. I think the sort of love we experience in relationships with others can be fleeting, especially when we are younger. We can fall in and out of what we perceive to be love, so quickly. We can be in love one minute and then offended by the one we love the next and hold a grudge, feel disappointed in them for not living up to the ideal relationship we had been dreaming about. Can anyone actually live up to the romantic ideals we have of being in love anyway?
As humans we are motivated and moved by the emotion of love and it can hit you like a speeding train so you feel like you can’t breathe because you love someone so much. You would literally go to any ends to be with the one you love and often this can lead to some interesting life choices (well it has for me). It can be all consuming and we can be consumed by love, love being in love, love the idea of love and delight in the warm fuzzy feelings we get when we feel loved and there is nothing wrong with any of this.
But, the love we read about in the bible, the love that God has for us is unshakeable and not based on our worthiness. He chose to love us before we even knew who He was and He loved us from the beginning of time. His love doesn’t waver depending on how we are doing today, how we talk to Him, how much time we spend with Him, His love is unconditional because He is God and He is love. Without God we wouldn’t have love!
His love goes beyond our mess, our mess ups, our selfishness, our lack of spending time with Him, our hard hearts, our love of self and on and on. He sees us as His beloved and would and did do anything to be in relationship with us. In fact, he did just that by sending his precious son Jesus to die in our place and take our sins upon himself so that we can have a fully restored relationship with the Father as He intended before the beginning of time.
Now that is the love that the bible talks about-unconditional and not based on a feeling that shifts like moving sands.
So here is a challenge, for me as well…
As you go about your week, how about taking the time to actually try and connect with neighbours, people on the way to school or college or even people you don’t know well and make God visible by loving them well in any way that you can. It doesn’t take much to change someone’s day and be the light in their dark, be the hope in their hopelessness.
Who will you stop for today?
Fruits of the Spirit series…