And how it leads to real relationship growth

Do you find your spiritual life disappointing?

We are promised new life, abundant life, eternal life. But all you’re feeling is the humdrum of ordinary life. All that “love, joy, and peace”, all that spiritual fruit stuff doesn’t seem to be growing in you or moving your life forward.

Maybe your spiritual life shot up like a rocket for the first couple of weeks, months, or years. But now it has crashed back to earth. And you’re confused and disappointed.

Are other people the problem?

Spiritual growth is very much like personal growth. It’s connected to people, to relationships.

Personal growth races forward when new people are introduced into your life. You get a new job or a some new co-workers. You move to a new place and make new friends. You get married. You have your first child. Everything changes and you change with it.

Introducing new people into your life creates opportunities to sand off the rough edges of your personality, to chip away at unhelpful communication patters, to embrace different kinds of people.

Or these new relationship can deeply hurt us, leaving us disappointed and misunderstood. When that happens — little by little — we pull away from relationships. We think it’s better to go it alone, or at least to live with a very small group of very safe people.

Going it alone stunts our personal growth.

But it also stunts our spiritual growth.

This is the one thing we forget when it comes to the Fruit of the Spirit!

The fruit is all about relationship with others. In other words, the fruit of the Spirit only grows in and through relationships.

To understand this we need to look at the metaphor of “fruit” in spiritual fruit.

Fruit: A Metaphor

What is fruit? 

Not spiritual fruit! 

I’m talking about real fruit. 

Fruit is how a fruit-bearing plant reproduces. How it multiples itself.

Fruit is not for the life of the existing plant. It is for the life of a NEW plant. The goal of fruit is not the continued growth of the existing plant. But to start a new plant or a new tree.

Also, fruit is a sign of maturity. Fruit-bearing trees take a couple of years before they start bearing fruit. And a small berry bush will take a year or so.

So — to sum up — the source of the fruit is maturity (from the roots) and the purpose is reproduction (other plants).

The 1 Thing We Forget About Spiritual Fruit

The thing we forget about the Fruit of the Spirit is that they are all about relationship. They come through relationship (with the Spirit — the root). And they are for relationship (with others).

Relationship with the Spirit.

For the fruit to grow in us we must connect to the source of the fruit. And the source is the Spirit of God.

Too often we choose to follow Jesus but then we go back to the old way of living. The Apostle Paul calls this living by the law (Gal. 3:2–5) or living according to the desires of the flesh. As he says, “Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Gal. 5: 16).

If you are drawing from the desires of the flesh, then you won’t get the fruit of the Spirit.

It is through the Spirit that we have power to live the life of God (Acts 1:8). And if the Spirit is powerful enough to raise Jesus from the dead, then the Spirit will grow the fruit in your life (Rom. 8:11).

So the question is, are you living in relationship to the Spirit? Or are you still living by the flesh according to the law?

Only when our roots are drawing from a relationship with the Spirit will our limbs bear the fruit of the Spirit for others.

Relationship with other people.

For the fruit to grow in us we must also live in relationship to other people.

This has to be the case because the fruit is meant to reproduce the Spirit’s life in others — other plants are supposed to spring up from the fruit.

Therefore, the Fruit of the Spirit is given away to others.

So if you aren’t sharing your life with anyone, if you are not in community with others, if you are distant from family and friends, then the Spirit will not be able to effectively grow the fruit in your life.

So here’s the question are you living in community? Are seeking to bless others with the life of Jesus? Or are you isolated and insulated from others? If so you need to push yourself to connect with people in some way.

The Relational Fruit of the Spirit

How, then, is the Fruit of the Spirit all about relationships?

Here is a short index of how the fruit connect to our relationships with others (from Gal. 5:22–25).

  • LOVE: the bond of affection in our relationship with others.
  • JOY: the high-energy response to our relationships of love.
  • PEACE: the low-energy rest when all is right in our relationships.
  • PATIENCE: the humble overcoming of relational obstacles.
  • KINDNESS: the tender walking with the weakness of others.
  • GOODNESS: the desire to promote the well-being of others.
  • FAITHFULNESS: the committed endurance in our relationships.
  • GENTLENESS: the attentiveness to the vulnerability of others.
  • SELF-CONTROL: the refusal to overwhelm another person with one’s own impulses or desires.

As Paul say about this fruit, “There is no law against such things” (Gal. 5: 23).

Geoff Holsclaw is a church pastor, seminary professor, and writer who is trying to make sense of faith in a confusing world. He is the author of two books, with a third coming out soon. While originally from California, he now calls Grand Rapids, MI home with his wife and two teenage sons.
Geoff Holsclaw is a church pastor, seminary professor, and writer who is trying to make sense of faith in a confusing world. He is the author of two books, with a third coming out soon. While originally from California, he now calls Grand Rapids, MI home with his wife and two teenage sons.

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