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Stripped Down and Peeled Back: A Look at Spirit Fruit (Pt 1)


There has been a low-toned, relentless vibration in my gut for years. It started with my journey out of shame-driven religion and into relationship anchored faith. During this on-going process, I have realized one of my missions on this Earth is to redefine language that is used to shut down, crowd out, or minimize others. It amazes me how often people are stopped in their tracks by a simple question, “What does that mean? Define that for me, please.”

Words have become weapons. Accusations and assumptions hurl like rapid fire, taking out anyone in their path; unconcerned about the carnage. We forget to stop and measure what we are saying, make the effort to find and use open inclusive language.

Whether in  business, media, or the church, we lob words like hand-grenades to shut others down and shut others up. It stops productive conversation dead in its tracks. It shores up the walls and reinforces the locks that keep people from embracing a community where they feel known and cherished.

I have watched and listened as people (including me) spoke “Church-onian” daring anyone to respond. I have witnessed the attributes listed in Galatians 5, which all characterize and describe Love, being used as a ruler, like a rigid schoolmarm measuring skirt length as she tsk-tsk-tsks the failing of another.

“Hmm. Well, that didn’t seem very loving.”
What they are really saying: I know your motivation and your plan and I don’t like it.

“Be long-suffering.”
What they really mean is, I have no intention of confronting this problem and you shouldn’t either. I have no responsibility to address or fix this.

“Where’s your kindness?”
The assumption in the comment: I know all the history of this relationship and conversation, and your wording (or action or facial expression) doesn’t meet my definition of nice.

“Long-suffering” becomes an excuse for irresponsible or cowardly behavior.

“Love” means we don’t have to push for the hard changes, stand in for the voiceless or powerless.

“Kind” means spineless and passive, agreeable at any cost.

We throw out words like “love,” “freedom,” “acceptance” as a smoke screen; defying anyone to confront our betrayal, irresponsibility, or lack of integrity.

As a follower of Jesus, the fruit of the Spirit is our guidance system. It is meant, foremost, to be used to examine your own heart. If we use it to measure others, it soon leaves a trail of bitter taste where there should be Spirit sweetness.

Long ago, I noticed that defining what fruit is, how it shows up in real life, how we live it out is— well, just hard. It isn’t black and white, cut and dried, able to be taken at face value.

Love is never a formula. It doesn’t look the same situation to situation or person to person. Love is alive, always changing, ever growing.

Sometimes love looks like a hug and a long talk. Sometimes it looks like shoving someone out of their comfort zone and locking the door behind them.

Sometimes kindness looks like a hot meal. Sometimes it looks like telling someone they can do better, and you expect better from and for them.

So I did a study on the fruit of the Spirit.

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A Spirit Production

The Fruit of the Holy Spirit is produced only by and through the Spirit of God. It grows from the nature of Holy Spirit flowing in our life the same as apples come from the nature of the apple tree. All fruit starts with a seed—no seed, no fruit. The type of seed always determines the type of fruit.

Holy Spirit Fruit will never come from our own efforts, good intentions, or even discipline. Anything produced, faked or instigated, within yourself, apart from the Spirit, isn’t a work of the Spirit. It’s a work of You. Even our best plans, strongest efforts will crumble if we draw on our own strength of determination. No matter how great you are, the Spirit of You is not powerful enough to produce the quantity and quality of fruit that Holy Spirit will in each of his Beloved Ones.

The moment you surrender your life to follow Jesus’s way, it plants the Spirit in you and that presence begins to grow. The fruit of the Spirit is an overflow and outgrowth of The Spirit in our life.

It is not a list of do and don’t, nor a measure of behavior. Fruit isn’t what we do but what we bear. In the daily messiness of life, what we show is fruit. What we default to when things get hard or sticky shows where our roots go. We can draw on a living and active relationship with Holy Spirit that helps us to “think on our feet” as we bob-and-weave our way through this ever-changing life.

It’s a holy adapting as we learn to reflect the heart of Jesus more brightly.

GALATIANS 5. 22-23

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control;
against such things there is no law.

 

But:

We could overlook the first word “but” however, it is there for a reason. It is linking what follows to what comes before. It is contrasting the works of our self-life with the works of the Spirit-life.

Look at what is being produced in your life and identify the source. Is it self produced and self-centered or is it Spirit produced and Spirit-centered?

 

Spirit:

Influence which governs and fills the soul of anyone; animator (life and movement giver)

The Holy Spirit is the animator, movement giver, motion maker, in our life. We can choose to let him influence us. We can choose him a million times in a million ways after making a million mistakes and he will always pick up where he left off in the filling and governing of our soul.

Fruit:

Work, act, deed originating from a source

Fruit in the original Greek is karpos describes the fruit of plants, the fruit of trees, or the fruit of a body, or offspring. Fruit is as the sweet, fleshy by-product of a tree or plant that contains seeds. Fruit is also the by-product or reward of work or activity.

Fruit always carries a seed and the seed always determines what it produces. Apples come from apple seeds. Lemons come from lemon seeds. The seed sown will always reproduce the fruit it came from. Good seed will always produce good fruit.

The fruit of The Spirit is the sweet by-product or reward of the Spirit’s activity in our life. The by-product of a person’s life ultimately reveals what is inside that person. The seed of Spirit is planted in our spirit the moment we surrender to Jesus. As the Holy Spirit seed grows, expect your life to yield the fruit of the Spirit, for that is the seed God has sown into your heart.

Love: 

agape

Love IS the fruit of the Spirit. The “fruit” on the list that follows are different ways of expressing love. Every fruit leads back to a love that is active and produces change.

We define the Greek word agape as unconditional love. This does not mean unconditional acceptance of all behavior, habits or actions. It isn’t love done perfectly. It isn’t love that never fades. It is love that overrides fault, imperfection, and hurt time and time again.

Agape is the deep emotion that happens when we see, recognize, understand or appreciate the value of another. Agape creates high esteem, awe, admiration, wonder and appreciation. It is strong, irresistible love without strings attached. It is a force that compels us to action; that makes love look like something.

“In scripture love is not an emotion. It is God extending himself to humanity.” *

Love — THE fruit of the Spirit — means we extend ourself. We do the hard thing. We stay when we want to abandon. We speak truth when we want to just nod and smile, avoid the confrontation. We challenge and correct when we know our world may be disrupted by doing so.

I love this version of Galatians 5:22-23 from the Passion Translation:

But the fruit produced by the Holy Spirit within you is divine love in all its varied expressions:

joy that overflows,
peace that subdues,
patience that endures,
kindness in action,
a life full of virtue,
faith that prevails,
gentleness of heart, and
strength of spirit.

Never set the law above these qualities, for they are meant to be limitless.


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