By Kristin Bonham
We are starting a new series this month on the Fruit of the Spirit.
Galatians 5:22-23 tells us that the fruit of the Spirit is characterized by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
The Fruit of the Spirit is evidence that the Spirit of God is in us! God’s spirit cannot help but produce this fruit in us. So why do we continue to need to work on specific areas? Will we ever get it? Can we speed up the process? Does our effort really work to produce this fruit? This month you will hear from women who are working through the answers to these questions.
Love is used to describe so many different things. “I love you” is said to those we truly care about and have affection for. “I love your dress!” is a term of admiration when things appeal to us. “I love this song” could be the feeling we have because certain emotions are stirred up. Love is a broad word and these are just a few of the ways it is used.
What does God say about Love?
I Corinthians 13:4-7 “Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut, doesn’t have a swelled head, doesn’t force itself on others, isn’t always “me first,” doesn’t fly off the handle, doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, doesn’t revel when others grovel, takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, puts up with anything, trusts God always, always looks for the best, never looks back, but keeps going to the end.”
The common thing that stands out to me about this passage is that love puts others first. A few years ago, I was feeling the Holy Spirit nudging me about how I was loving others. I thought I was doing pretty good working on that fruit! God showed me that I had no problem showing love when things were going my way or there was peace and harmony. When my expectations were met, I felt the love! On the contrary, when my expectations were not met or when I was frustrated, stressed, or busy, there was no love. I felt the Holy Spirit showing me that I was selfish and there is no way I can love others by my own efforts because love isn’t about my expectations or lack of busyness. Only with His help, could I be capable of love. I had to surrender. Instead of focusing on trying to show love, my focus had to be surrendering to God.
I realized that I had a “Me” focus including the way I was trying to show love. It was like an item on my list of things to do to prove I was a good Christian or a growing Christian. God began teaching me to be aware of who is around me. When I’m busy thinking about my day, life, or struggle and thinking of all the things I need to get done, I don’t even notice who I’m bumping into… people I may see weekly. I was going to the same grocery store, restaurants, church, etc and not even acknowledging people whose faces I saw all the time. Once I realized this, I felt terrible! I also discovered that a major obstacle in showing love is my busyness.
Over a year ago, I met my friend Barbara at church. She always sits in the same spot up near the front where I like to sit. Because I’m usually greeting, I have a hard time getting a good seat! So, I found myself always scooting into the seat next to Barbara. One day, I turned and asked her about herself. That was the beginning of a beautiful Sunday morning friendship. I know about her life, about her daughters, her mom, her job and vacations. And she knows about my life! I love seeing her on Sunday and miss her when I don’t. My life is richer because I know Barbara.
I don’t know about you, but all my effort to show love is useless unless I do the very first thing first. Surrender. I have to leave room for God to lead me. I have to get ME out of the way so that His fruit will grow in me. There is a constant struggle because I want to put ME first. My nature is to be selfish and look out of number 1… that’s what culture tells me to do.
I am not perfect by any means. I am known for being very focused and not seeing what’s around me. I pray that God would remind me to put others first starting with paying attention to who is in my life on a daily basis. When I do this, there is a better chance that I Corinthians 13 will be true about me because the fruit of the Spirit has a chance to show through my life to others.
Kristin Bonham is a pastor’s wife and the Women’s Ministry Director at Grace Family Church. She’s been married to Chris for 24 years and is mom to Taylor, Abby and Casey. She loves the beach, New York City and traveling with Pastor Chris to anywhere tropical. She collects books and reads some of them. Her favorite part of the week is Sunday lunch with family and friends around the table.