How would you describe the taste of a kiwi? It used to be called a Chinese plum and wasn’t selling so well, so someone said it needed a more exotic name. Since it is from New Zealand where the kiwi bird lives, they called it “kiwi fruit”, and the rest is history. This small, fuzzy green fruit has tiny black seeds in green flesh. Peeled, it is great in a fruit salad and tastes like blackberries, and strawberries, and a bit citreous. It’s unique. It’s one fruit, but it has several flavors.

Paul wrote to the Galatians that the fruit of the spirit is love. I stop there, because, as a former English teacher, I think that a single subject and a single verb always come before a single predicate noun. I would never think of changing the text of the Bible, so I am thinking, the text is inspired, but maybe not the punctuation? If I were writing it, I would put a dash after the word love, and then the eight words that follow would be predicate adjectives, describing the noun “love.” In that way, love would be the fruit, and the other qualities the flavors.

What is this fruit called “love?”

We can find the definition of love in I Corinthians 13. It is patient, kind, not envious, not prideful, believes, hopes, endures, never fails. Most important, love shows action. God gives us love. If we live in the sphere of that love, He will add joy and peace. Joy is “holy optimism” that keeps us going in spite of difficulties because we know God loves us.

Peace is the harmony of opposing forces. Sometimes we have strife, even in the church. We hate to speak of it, but we should, so we can learn how to disagree agreeably! When one side can deal with the other side and each side still feels loved, that is peace.

God gives us joy and peace. The other graces have to be learned because they cannot be legislated. Patience, kindness and goodness reflect the way we should deal with others, while faithfulness, meekness and self-control grace ourselves.

Patience is not having a short temper. Sometimes after putting up with something a long time, we say “Enough!” but if we really love others, we can be patient. Love is not blind. It sees but loves anyway, because it is patient.

Kindness refers to service, being willing to do simple things to help others. So­lomon wrote that “whoever is kind to the needy honors God.” Love prompts us to serve.

Goodness is doing the right thing. It is not just a word to use on children, when we tell them to “Be good.” We can police our children at home but if we want them to remain good when they leave home, we have to do it with love. We need to encourage, along with discipline. Jesus said “If you love me, you’ll keep my commandments.” If we train them with love, our young adults might choose to do the right thing because they would love their parents back and not want to hurt or disappoint them, just as we do not want to disappoint our Heavenly Father.

Faithfulness is loyalty, being trustworthy and dependable. It does not fail if there is enough love and we feel cherished. It is easy to be true to someone when we know we are loved.

Meekness is humility, always unconscious. Those who are meek do not know it! If we need for people to know how meek we are —- how we do not mind doing lowly jobs or that we sacrifice and give a lot of ourselves and our money, then we are not meek. Meekness is having power, authority, and re­sources, but not flaunting it.

Self-control is having no excess. It is mastery over self. If I tell someone he should not do something, he may tell me to mind my own business, but if I remind him that his children are going to do whatever they see him do, he may be motivated to try self-control. If we really love someone, we find it easier to control ourselves to stay healthy and upright.

We cannot have love and these graces unless we hand over our lives to the Holy Spirit. We can counterfeit some of them, but without God, we cannot produce the fruit of the Spirit because when the Spirit produces fruit, God gets the glory.

Some of us wish our fruit production were better. If we pray for that, we may feel a conviction. This tells us that God knows our hearts. We should thank Him when we feel that tug, because it lets us know that God considers us His children, and He is working on us. That is what love is. If we have it, we have the flavors, also. If we do not have love, we cannot have any of it.

Why should I want this fruit?

John 15 gives us a picture of Jesus with his disciples the day before his arrest. He had washed their feet, then they left the room, and as they walked, Jesus taught his last lesson. It was about the vine and the branches.

Then Jesus tells them they are no longer slaves, but friends, and immediately their relationship changed. This is so important because up to that time, He had been their master and they had been like slaves. A slave has nothing to possess, and cannot choose what to do or act on his own initiative. He does not know the plans of the Master, so he has unquestioning submission, or blind obedience.

That is how the disciples had been, but now they could ask questions as Jesus told them his plans and shared the news that he and the Father were one, that he was the way to the Father, and that the Father will love those who come to Him through Jesus. Like the disciples, we are bond-servants of Jesus, His property, unable to save ourselves or do anything worthwhile except what is done on His be­half. But, we’re also friends of Jesus. As friends, we give Jesus intelligent obedience. We are submissive, but we are free to ask questions and hear His answers.

A slave does not know his master’s plans, but we do. He has told us His plans are to “seek and save the lost” and then come back from Heaven for us. With that, Jesus lets us know three things: One, we have a capacity to serve; two, we have the responsibility to serve; and three, we have the power to serve. Jesus said “I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.” There is our Help Line!

Another very important reason to want to bear the fruit of love is be­cause God wants us to love Him. Fruit gives sustenance, and God wants that from us. God is love. He needs love, and He is disappointed when we do not love Him.

In a recent study of Genesis, I noticed that when God called to Adam in the garden and asked “Where are you?”, He wasn’t calling like a policeman to arrest Adam. He was crying because he was a Father who had lost his child! If you have ever lost a child, or if you have one who is lost now, you know the grief and pain that brings. We want their love. Today, God is present with us, and the Earth is His garden! What is He looking for? LOVE! We should want this fruit of love because we’re His friends, and because He wants our love.

How do I get it?

Fruit cannot be manufactured. It grows in a garden. It needs to be planted in good soil and in a good climate, and cultivated. How do we plant it? Where do the seeds come from? Philippians 4:8 says whatsoever things are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, and praiseworthy, we need to think on these seeds. We need to plant them in our hearts, reflect on them, and let them fill our thoughts! Peter says if we have these seeds, they’ll make us productive.

Another thing, for fruit to grow there has to be a right climate.

There was a time when I received notes and letters from people who were not happy with me. I kept these in a filing cabinet drawer in a folder labeled “Hate Mail.” Every time I opened that drawer, I saw that folder, and all the anger and hurt boiled in me. One day I was ranting about someone, and my dear husband listened patiently, then said, “I know, I know. Why don’t we pray for this person?” And we did, and we prayed for me too! I realized my keeping that was not what God wanted me to do. So I shredded each one, bagged them up, and put them in the trash bin. I felt better. It took time for me to forgive, but it was what I needed to do. There are still times when Satan tries to fill my head with bad memories, but I hit my head and say “Get out! Get out!” and try to think on pure, lovely things instead!

Jesus said in the book of Mark that “whatever you ask for in prayer, be­lieve that you’ve received it and it shall be yours. AND, if while praying, you have anything against anyone, forgive him so your Father in heaven can for­give you also.” When we realize we are forgiven, then we can forgive others, and that provides a blessed climate for the fruit of love to grow in.

As for cultivation, God has to do that. Jesus is the true vine, and his Father is the husbandman. Think of how long it took you to learn to tie your shoestrings. You did not stop until you could do it unconsciously, without thinking. That took discipline. “Whom the Lord loves, He disciplines.” “All dis­cipline seems for the present not joyous.” God’s repetitious discipline where He corrects us over and over helps us love so that we do the right thing without thinking. Cultivation also includes pulling out the weeds so that the Word of God can take root and bear fruit. The Pharisees in Jesus’ time were wanting praise and glory for themselves, and that led to competition and division. That kind of weed has got to go. Fruit can never grow in that kind of soil. It needs good soil. We need to quit competing and causing divisions.

The way we get the fruit is having the Holy Spirit help us with good soil, the seeds of good thoughts, a climate of forgiveness, discipline, and good fel­lowship.

Where can I show it?

As we walk in the Spirit, we show the fruit of love. “Walk in the Spirit” means to keep in step, not run ahead and not lag behind. We cannot look over our shoulder and tell Jesus to keep up or tell God how to do things.

The New Testament gives examples of how to show this fruit of love. In Romans, Paul was bearing fruit by winning Gentiles to Christ. Later, he re­minds us that we have been set free from sin so we can bear fruit with holy living. Again, Paul writes that contributions for the poor among the saints were considered pleasing fruit. He tells the Colossians to live a life worthy of the Lord and please Him in every way by bearing fruit in every good work. The Hebrew writer says that we can offer to God a sacrifice of praise, which is the fruit of our lips when we confess His name, and that is good fruit.

We have to remember that this fruit is produced to be eaten, not just admired or put on display. People around us are starving for love and all the graces of the Spirit. When they see that in our lives, they know that we have something different and they might want it. So, we do not show fruit for our own benefit. We show fruit so others can be fed and helped, and so the fruit will propagate and multiply.

When do I use it?

We can use the fruit of love in our teaching about righteousness and judgment. Truth without compromise is always a must, but the manner it is given often determines its effectiveness. Remember Solomon wrote about a gentle answer and the tongue that brings healing. We use love when we go into the company of sinners and teach them about repentance and justification. Missionaries tell us that on the mission field, they have to see no evil, just see the people who need to be washed, fed, and loved.

We have to be patient with unbelievers and see them through eyes of love. We have been taught to separate from the world, but we have to put ourselves in personal contact with them to reach them. Jesus was in touch with sinners. He never put them down or patronized them or raised his voice to them. He received them and made himself their friend. They needed Him just like we do.

In Luke 15, Jesus explained why he was the friend of sinners. He was trying to love them into holiness. He said there are four ways to be lost. First, through headlessness, like the sheep, drifting until there’s a crisis, and be­coming helpless. Second, through idleness, like the coin, out of circulation, and becoming useless. Third, through willfulness, like the younger son, think­ing only of the present, until he was respect-less. And fourth, through haughti­ness, like the elder son, prideful and intolerant of others’ sins, until he was joyless. They were all lost. But listen, Jesus never gives up and He does not want us to either. He wants to be their friend, Savior, and Lord. The Holy Spir­it convicts and restores, and God waits and welcomes. We in the church are to go out and find the lost and bring them in. Search, look, pray, go after them!

Like Jesus, we need to challenge them to make right decisions and warn them of the coming judgment. But we have to do it while using the fruit of love. It is not what we know, but how we love that matters in the vineyard of God. I know two ladies who are good examples. One works in a pregnancy crisis center, teaching Bible classes, and the other is a foster parent. The people they work with are basically not bad, but they have made wrong choices. It is difficult work, and how do they do it? Jesus reminds us that not only has He asked us to bear fruit, but He has told us to ask the Father for what we need. Jesus said He was the true vine and we are the branches. As branches, we have to ask the vine for the nutrients needed to bear fruit. The more difficult the task, the more we need to ask.

Another way to use our love is by forgiving our family members and fel­low believers and asking their forgiveness. Jesus, our Master, wants us to get more members into His family, but to do this, we have to love those already in our church family. I cannot promote a religion of love while I carry resentment in my heart against those who do not behave as I think they should.

The apostle Paul wrote that those who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak. That may include daughters, sons-in-law, brothers, brothers-in-law, and so on. We need to not just tolerate them, but to uphold them lovingly, and not insist on what we want but care about them.

And wouldn’t you hate to miss out on God’s forgiveness just because you cannot find it in your heart to forgive someone who has hurt your feelings? You may say, “Yes, but you don’t know what ….” No, I do not know what they did to you, but I am guessing no one threw stones at you or drove nails through your hands. Yet both Stephen and Jesus said “Father, forgive them.” If you cannot do it, as Him to! We need to get rid of those “Yeah, buts” and try to please the heart of God and be more like Him.

We need to get serious about this business of being a Christian. While I was a student at Southeastern Christian College, Sis. Mullins took me in right away and told me, “Your siblings have a good reputation here, and we don’t want you to ruin the Smith name.” Of course, I did not want to do that! And neither do I want to ruin the name of Christ by my stubborn behavior! If we are going to wear the name of Christ, then we have to show the world that we belong to Him, we stay close to Him, we talk to Him daily, and we have His character traits, those graces we have just read about. We want them to say, “You act just like your Father!” Our Father in Heaven! This is serious business!

In the great commission, Jesus said to tell, baptize, and teach, or make, mark, and mature. It is a co-mission, because Jesus promises to go with us. If we have the fruit of the Spirit while we do our part of the great commis­sion, we just might lead a lost child back to the Father.

We all began our Christian discipleship as slaves, but if we are still just slaves, our fruit of love will be rare and those graces will be nonexistent. Stephen said that we are always resisting the Spirit instead of letting Him work. Let us not quench that urging we get from the Holy Spirit. Let us give of ourselves from the heart!

As friends of Jesus, we know what He wants us to do, and we are to ask God the Father for help to do it. Maybe the reason there are so many dead vines in the Lord’s vineyard is because it takes fellowship with Jesus to be friends with Him. Fellowship with Jesus inspires us to produce fruit, more fruit, and much fruit, because this is how we glorify Him.

We can be His friend even when we are afraid or worried or in doubt, or when we do not understand what is going on. But to make it work, we have to have fire and conviction burning inside. We have to share our love with a pas­sion because it is the intensity of our spirit that will move others to follow Je­sus.

If that passion runs through our friendship here, think of what God can do for this old world through us. God wants our fruit so He can bless us. He wants our love, labor, and loyalty.

My prayer is that all of us will learn to forgive and have compassion, and work on bearing much more of the fruit of love and all the graces.

Joyce Broyles lives in Jennings, LA and is a  member of the  Welsh Church of Christ in Welsh, LA