Tuesday, July 20, 2010

This week's message: Fruit

God desires for us an abundant life; he wants the best possible health, growth and productivity for us. Just like a gardener wants the best health, growth and productivity for the plants in his garden. The fruit God desires to cultivate in us produces lives that are solid, unshakable in a crisis. They leave the individual satisfied with good things and at the best possible place in their relationships with others.

The world promises self-fulfillment through a series of counterfeit fruit. The goals and desires are self-focused and when followed lead to a mediocre existence at best and total destruction at worst for the individual and all who are connected to them. Worldly Fruit can be tricky, though. Sometimes it is in opposition to God's Fruit. Other times, however, Worldly Fruit is an incomplete version of God's Fruit.

The Fruit of the Spirit -vs- The Fruit of the World System:

Love -vs- Like
Joy -vs- Happiness
Peace -vs- Control or Apathy
Patience -vs- Passion
Kindness -vs- Ingratiation/Kissing Up
Goodness -vs- Status Quo
Faithfulness -vs- Tit for Tat/Contract Mentality
Gentleness -vs- Niceness
Self-Control -vs- Will Power

Love vs Like
God wants us to live lives full of love. He wants us to love him and love others. Not in a warm-fuzzy kind of way that comes from our emotions, but a solid love that puts the best interest of the other before our own. God wants an attitude of love to saturate every part of our lives.

The world, meanwhile, sells us on living lives of like. What does it mean to like something? I appreciate the direct Spanish interpretation of “I like.” “Me gusta” which literally means “it pleases me.” To like someone or something means that they do something nice for me. They please me. It is a self-focused approach to living.

"But, isn't it ok to like things?" Of course it is ok to like things. It is great to like people and like the things we have, but if we stop with "like" we live a shallow existence, not ever really satisfied with life in general. Only by going deeper into a true attitude of love can we begin to find true fulfillment.

In our everyday lives, like vs love is lived out in how we relate with everything around us from our possessions to our families and even the earth itself. When we love our families, we base our actions on what is best for them regardless of the effort and sacrifice on our part. We tend them like God tends us. When we live in an attitude of like with our families, when they stop pleasing us, we stop caring for them in the way God cares for us.

When we live in an attitude of love towards the things around us, we realize that to take on a possession is to take on a responsibility. We weigh the long term cost of the investment and decide if we are up for the challenge. When we live in an attitude of like towards the things around us, our possessions exist to please us, rather than to fulfill a specific purpose. When they no longer produce excitement in us, we buy a new one even if the one we have is still in good working order. Soon our houses are overflowing with junk, our credit cards are maxed out, and we wonder why everyone else seems to have such nice things.

When we live in an attitude of love towards our environment, we realize that it requires us to care for not just the earth around us, but the earth on the other side of the globe. None of us would ever vote in a toxic waste dump in our own backyard, but love is not voting one into someone else's. When we live in an attitude of like, we only care about what we can see or what affects us.

Living in like is a mediocre way of existing that produces want and lack and destruction as opposed to true fulfillment and health and growth. Living in an attitude of love causes us to view all of our relationships as gifts entrusted to us by God requiring us to act as good stewards of them all. Living in love produces good relationships, it helps us balance our finances and not get wrapped up in a race with the Joneses, it helps us to create healthy safe places for ourselves and others to grow and live abundant lives.

"So, how do I cultivate this love?" Good question. Love, being a fruit must grow. It is not instant and we have to deal patiently with ourselves in the growing process. Love comes from God alone, and the best way to cultivate that fruit is to press in closer to Him. We have to seek true food and water and Son-light to nurture this and other Spiritual Fruit. Spend time in God's letter to us, the Bible. Spend time just talking to God, wherever you are, silent or spoken; prayer is simply a conversation with God.

As we press in closer to God, we see how he loves us and become secure in His love. That security gives us courage to love others in the same way He loves us. Then that Spiritual Fruit of love can begin to grow and mature, and we see it's result in our lives.

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