A few weeks ago my Sunday Bible class unanimously agreed that we would study “The Fruit of the Spirit” from Galatians 5:22 and 23. After a general introduction to the context and the nine fruit Paul lists we moved to the first quality.
Probably no one is surprised that the fruit of Love is first in the Apostle Paul’s list of the nine fruits God wants and expects will be produced with the help of the Holy Spirit in Christians. In his book Cultivating the Fruit of the Spirit author Christopher Wright observes, “In putting love first, Paul is echoing Jesus.” You probably remember Jesus’ response to the question about the greatest commandment that it is to completely love God. And he went on to say the second one is “to love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-40).
While I sat in our worship service before our class on love I began to wonder why many Christians are not more loving. Why aren’t we giving more attention to cultivating the fruit of love for others? As our pastor wrapped up his sermon four things came to mind that struck me as possible reasons why some of us are not more loving. I pulled an offering envelope from the pew and jotted down the four reasons.
As I made my way to our classroom I thought about the reasons I jotted down and realized the four were two pairs that are related. I think some of us don’t cultivate the fruit of love because we take others for granted and are perhaps even selfish. Others of us aren’t giving attention to cultivating the fruit of love because we are disengaged and aloof.
I was not totally sure of the meaning of the four things I mentioned that get in the way of cultivating love for others and so I looked up some definitions. To take others for granted “means to take advantage of, show no appreciation for, or undervalue them.” To be selfish is to be “concerned excessively or exclusively for oneself.” To be disengaged it to “release or detach oneself (withdraw).” Finally, to be “aloof is not to be friendly or forthcoming, but rather to be cool and distant.”
Is it possible that because some are selfish and take some people for granted that the fruit of love is not growing? And could it be that because some are aloof and don’t want to be engaged with some that the fruit of love is not growing? There are many reasons we could give for not being more loving. It seems to me that we need to be aware and careful as we consider how to express and show love to others.
While we may wish it were automatic that as Christians we would produce the fruit of love, we know it isn’t. To produce the fruit of the Spirit we need to invite the Holy Spirit to help us and cooperate with Him as He helps us grow and mature in all the fruits. Perhaps a beginning point is to remind ourselves that Jesus instructed his followers to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.
I think we all know people who are easy to love and others who are hard to love, but that does not exempt us from loving them. As we make the effort to grow in our love for others we must be wise. We also need to be on guard and not allow those we love to become dependent upon us as that would not be healthy for them or us.
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