Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Fruit of the Spirit is Love...

Winnipeg Centre Vineyard is closely knit to and planted at the same time, about fifteen years ago, as the Vineyard church in Katmandu, Nepal. Today, there are thirteen other Vineyard churches that have been planted by joint effort between us throughout Nepal. We nearly always have people from our congregation over there and currently, the head pastor there is here in Winnipeg. A short man with quick wit and humour, Noel preached to us last Sunday. He spoke about the Fruit of the Spirit.

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control" (Galatians 5:22, 23 NIV).

I’ve observed that most Christians repeat this list of virtues as something we need to discipline ourselves to attain, but Jesus said, “No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me” (John 15:4 NIV). Fruit is the result of being connected to God, not the way we get connected to him. Noel, however, made a statement that gave me pause to think: We have to take the first step.

Love. It kind of floats, doesn’t it? But love is an action. It doesn’t just float. It is connected to action and it costs. If I want to love my neighbour, I’m going to have to walk to her door; if a young man is in love with a girl, he will spend money to take her out on a date. Sometimes we don’t WANT to love. Sometimes Noel doesn’t want to love his wife. Sometimes I don’t want to love Tom. But we need to step out and move in Christ.

We have only two ways we can move—forward or backward. Do we want to move back to who we were in Galatians 5:19-21?
“The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies and the like.”
There is no middle ground. We are either living in verse 22 or in verse 19. When we walk in the middle path, we’re missing the mark. If we don’t take the first step towards verse 22, we will slide back to verse 19. Life is very grey for far too many people.

“Do you have trouble loving?” Noel asked. “I have trouble loving.”

Yes! I am having a great trouble loving, especially my husband. But what can I do? Noel’s answer is that what we need to do is cry out to God and take the foundational first step. But what is that step?

As Noel continued to speak, he talked about the other virtues and the importance of being able to see ourselves with God’s eyes—he gave us his eyes when we accepted Jesus into our lives so we can do this.

At the end of the service we were invited to close our eyes and take a look inside. What did we see? When we saw it, we were to turn to someone beside us and confess. My friend beside me and I chuckled because she had done this before the service so now it was my turn. “I have trouble loving my husband. I’ve put up many barriers that divide us and now that I want them down, I don’t know how to dismantle them.” So she prayed.

Interestingly, I felt much warmer towards Tom for the rest of the day and I wonder: Is this a new beginning? I hope so.

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