If you have been near church teaching for very much time at all you have most likely heard at least some mention of The Fruit of The Spirit.(Galatians 5:22-23 KJV) Paul was basically telling the Christians at Galatia that certain attributes would be manifest in them if they were letting the Holy Spirit lead their lives.
As I was praying about what to write for today, the Lord brought these verses to my mind. "What does The Fruit of The Spirit have to do with relationships?", is what I thought first. "Everything!", is what I realized next.
It is fairly easy to maintain a standard of kindness and generosity, meekness, patience and even happiness and faith with people we rub shoulders with as we move through our daily activities. We can put on a smile and viola, the lady at the dry cleaners will never know how unhappy we are inside. We can let the guy with one loaf of bread in front of us in the checkout and he will only see patience and generosity exuding from us. While these acts are indeed good, and while it is indeed important to display the Spirit's work in our lives to everyone, are these encounters true evidence of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives? On the surface everything looks good, but what about those day-in and day-out relationships? What about the people we spend the most time with and are the closest too? What about the people who know us the best; who we do not have to keep up "appearances" for; those whose connection with us goes deeper than perfunctory interaction? I believe it is our actions in those relationships that are the tell-tale indicators of whether it is the Spirit or our flesh that has the upper hand.
To begin with let's take a look at "Love", the first of the fruits mentioned in Paul's list.This love is not 'love' as it is commonly referred to and bandied about in our culture. The word 'love' has been watered down. Love, in and of itself, has been watered down. We talk about feelings and hearts and infatuations, when love is so much more than that. It is much more than those things, but also much simpler than those things.
According to the Strong's concordance, which provides insight regarding the origin of the words used in scripture passages, this love is simply brotherly love, affection, good will and benevolence. Hey, we have that covered, right? A hug here and there, some charity sprinkled in and there you have it - love! Well, before you go getting all smug, there's another scripture we need to look at with that same 'love' word in it that kind of puts things in a little different perspective for us.
John 15:13 says, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." Yep, you read that right, 'lay down his life for his friends'! Not for the heartthrob of his life or for his kids, or some act of heroics, no! For his friends.
Now, thankfully the Lord is not asking us to go around throwing ourselves in front of literal buses for each other to prove that we are living by the Spirit. He does require some things that may actually be a bit harder in practice, however.
I remember reading a story one time in a cookbook of all places! The author was talking about how her brother had asked her to make him a sandwich at a time when she was making plans for some personal recreation. She tells how she slammed that sandwich together as fast as she could and shoved it at him. At which point he basically asked, 'where's the love in that?' His response brought her up short. She realized that she needed to serve him in love. That is what Paul was talking about in Galatians! That is laying down your life for someone else!
You see, it's not something we can always just put on, or act out. Love is not always a verb as they say; ultimately it has to have roots deeper than that. Now, I'm not saying we shouldn't act out love; we need to act it out. Acting out what is right, even when we don't feel it is a good way to build those spiritual muscles, so to speak. However, eventually our appearances of l ove will wear thin if there is not a sincere love that is bred by the Spirit's work in our lives to under gird it.
So what does 'laying down our lives for our friends' look like then? It can be as simple as sharing the last of that favorite dessert you were saving with your hubby, or surrendering your right to which show you want to watch. It is simple, but it does involve sacrifice, I believe. What is it to cast off our left overs that we no longer care for anyway? Does that really capture the essence of the love that Christ demonstrated for us?
Ask the Lord to show you how you can walk in the Spirit and how you can manifest the fruit of love in your relationships.