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17Jan '17

Discovering Fruits of the Spirit While Living out the Great Commission in Northern Virginia

January 17, 2017

By Kee Kim

Galatians 5:22-23 – But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithful, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Throughout the Bible, the evidence or product of our faith is often described as fruit. Jesus compares good and bad fruit. He takes away the branches without fruit and prunes those with fruit, so they can produce even more. And we’re reminded that only by abiding in him can there be much fruit.

Several years ago, I began wondering where that fruit was in my life, especially if I professed to know God and desired to make him known. Around that same time, I began reading a book by David Platt called Radical. My initial response was one of shame, seeing the disconnect between the lifestyle that the Bible calls us to versus what I saw in my own life. Then the anger crept in. I began wondering why I was not seeing “radical” fruit in myself or in others around me. This latter sentiment may have been my own arrogance and self-righteousness at work. While intrigued by Platt’s premise of fully embracing God and the Great Commission, I didn’t finish reading the book until many months later since it was easier to criticize the American church and its shortcomings than do anything about it.

A healthier consequence of reading Radical, however, was having to answer the two questions constantly replaying in my head… who is my neighbor and how do I better love people? I can’t remember if it was Platt or someone else who pointed me towards the story of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) during this search for fruit. But re-encountering God’s heart through this familiar parable helped me understand that who starts with opening my eyes to what’s nearby or in front of me. My neighbor could be whoever comes along and may be in need. The how started to make sense while looking closer into the Samaritan’s behavior.

The Samaritan stopped at a risk to himself. On the road from Jerusalem to Jericho, robbery was frequent, and some may have deceitfully posed as helpless victims to rob the unwary traveler. Yet, he stopped. This action was far from the “safe” option and was likely not convenient for his schedule or plans for that day. His decision also came at a personal cost, knowing he probably wouldn’t be repaid when he gave money to the innkeeper to care for a total stranger. Two denarii might be the financial equivalent of two days’ wages in that time. It’s hard enough for me to hand over $20 to a panhandling homeless person these days, but the Samaritan’s costly action made me wonder if I might need a fundamental perspective shift.

He used what he had: wine and oil, his own animal. God blesses me with a home, a functioning car, a job, hobbies, and community. Too often I use the excuse of needing to get better wine, better oil, or a better animal, in order to love others properly. But how am I using what God has already provided?

His response was immediate and filled with compassion. In sharp contrast, the two religious leaders did not live out what they probably taught. Since they were leaving Jerusalem, they would likely have been to the temple and would not have had to worry about becoming ceremonially unclean by helping a bloodied man. Yet, they stepped aside. I can find this attitude easily in my own life, after hearing a great sermon at church or reading an inspiring book about loving God and loving people.

So how did the good Samaritan story help me figure out whether or not I was producing fruit? There were myriad of options of who and how to love others, but ultimately I decided to begin by loving people who were already in my life, while doing things that came naturally. One example was though an ongoing interest in playing sports. Pruning my branches to grow abundant fruit meant I needed to take one step further and develop meaningful relationships with the people I met regularly for recreation. This involved opening up my life to neighbors in my townhome community, coworkers on my company softball team, and the guys with whom I play pickup basketball. These might seem like baby steps to some, but this new perspective on something I was already doing brought weekly opportunities to learn and live out kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control.

God has likely laid out uniquely-crafted opportunities before each of us – specific to your personality, life-stage, experience with hardships, socio-economic status, or geographic location – to love God and love others. Perhaps the platform for doing so is through our church’s upcoming partnership with a refugee resettlement agency. Or maybe God has provided a special desire for interacting with families at the Hanley Shelter playdates. Alternatively, it’s possible you understand how to love others best through packing meals for local elementary school children through the ongoing RKids2 effort. The Shop for Freedom, Operation Christmas Child, and From ABC with Love are other recent efforts at tangibly loving others. In the coming months, there will also be short-term mission trip opportunities to travel and see firsthand what God is doing in other parts of the world. One of the wonderful things about our ABC community is that so many of these “formal” efforts often spearheaded by the Missions Committee are actually inspired by individual interests that are shared with the larger church congregation.

Whatever your background or gifts, I encourage you to examine ways to seek fruit together. It’s truly a beautiful sight to witness fruit blossoming in and through our ABC community, as we learn how to love God and love others together.