Society is lacking the fruit of the Spirit love. A few years ago, a 68 year-old woman was functioning as a bus monitor in upstate New York. In an incredibly mean way the students taunted her for over 10 minutes with a stream of profanity, insults, jeers and physical ridicule. One comment from a boy aboard the bus is especially painful. He told her that she does not have family because “they all killed themselves because they didn’t want to be near you.” The sad thing was that this woman’s oldest son had taken his own life 10 years ago, at that comment the elderly lady breaks down into tears. I know that it sounds like one isolated incident. The tragedy is that these events go on all around us all the time.
Here is the bottom line: Relationships are breaking down in America.
But here is the good news: God’s word gives us a means whereby the relationships that we have can go forward instead of backward. This article is about the power of the Holy Spirit in relationships. I am going to challenge you to live by the Spirit and it is going to have a powerful affect in your home, business, and family. Galatians 5:16-17 NLT says, “So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions.
Relationships around us suffer when we don’t allow the Holy Spirit to guide our lives. When the sinful nature, the flesh wins out, our good intentions are not carried out. How many of you have ever said:
I didn’t want to have a fight with my mom but I did.
I didn’t intend to get into it with the wife, but I did.
I wasn’t going to say that to my boss, but I did.
The answer is found when we cooperate with the Holy Spirit. Something happens. Fruit grows. Galatians 5:22-23 NKJV “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”
There is a crisis in our culture and the crisis that is in our culture is the consequence of a crisis in our relationships. Think about this for a moment:
It is true that America has the highest divorce rate in the world. Sad isn’t it!
It is true that 80 % of the prison population in America comes from fatherless homes.
It is true that more teen agers run away from home in America than any other country in the world.
It is true that America is the only nation where there is an attention deficit disorder issue among the children of our society.
The crisis in America is a crisis in relationships. There is a lot of pain in our society and culture.
A recent survey said that of those who visit a church on a Sunday morning, 78% come because of a relational crisis in their life. 73% who visit leave with a feeling that the church has not addressed their need. God’s Word provides a cure and that cure is the fruit of the Spirit love. Some powerful truths to ponder as we consider our dilemma for a moment longer:
- WE NEED SPIRITUAL FATHERS AND MOTHERS
Paul in 1 Corinthians 4:15 indicted the Corinthian church by saying, “Even if you had ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.”
The church has a multitude of teachers. The deficiency is not in exhortation. You can listen to an unending stream of podcasts. The plain fact of the matter is that the church needs stable, secure, veterans of the faith that will help us grow up in the Lord. The church needs spiritual fathers and mothers. If that was an issue in the 1st century church, how much more would it be an issue in today’s contemporary church.
Think about it:
Who is helping us grow up?
Who do we turn to when the issues of our life come up and we just need to talk it out?
Who is helping young people by providing an example?
Who among us will love us no matter how far we roam?
To whom are we looking as a church for council and discipline and protection and encouragement?
Who throws the party when the prodigal comes home?
Where is today’s Jairus interceding for his lifeless daughter until the touch of the master comes?
Satan has tried to diminish fatherhood and motherhood in the church because the removal of spiritual fathers intensifies our aloneness.
2. TWO GREAT DILEMMAS OF MANKIND
There are really only two great dilemmas of mankind
The first great dilemma is man’s fallenness. Romans 3:23 “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” All have fallen. Sin is the great curse upon mankind and the church has been persistent to address fallenness. We have been persistent to speak about the sin that plagues us. But before man’s fallenness was man’s aloneness.
Before Adam sinned, God evaluated his situation in Genesis 2:18 NIV “The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone…” God solved the aloneness issue by calling Adam to relationship. As a church we at least we speak persistently to the fallen nature of man.
We give altar calls.
We tell people about sin.
We tell people about the cross.
We tell people about the love of God.
But there too many people that are in the church, that although they have addressed the sin issue, they have not as yet addressed the aloneness issue, and the pain of their aloneness is keeping them from knowing Jesus in the way they ought to love the Lord.
Often times it’s the brokenness in our own families that cause us to feel alone. We wonder why doesn’t love last. There are people who just never got past the pain of dad’s departure. There are young ladies and girls who feel the sorrow of not having their dad’s approval and so the first young man that comes along and looks in their eyes and tells her how pretty she is-she will give her heart to him and she will do anything to dull the pain of being alone. It happens in the church. I am talking about young ladies who have their sins forgiven. They believe in the cross and the resurrection but oh, the pain of aloneness. We will tell her God loves her and she will say, Okay, but I need somebody who can hold me.
And then, there are those who know the pain of a failed marriage. There was a time in your life when you thought you were loved. There was a time in your life when that love did not last and the someone to whom you had given your heart rejected you, left you high and dry, left you alone, and not only do you need to come to church to hear about a God who can forgive you of your sins, you need to know how you can overcome the pain of your loneliness.
There are some that even though you are married, you are still alone. You can be in a crowd and find yourself lonely. You are plagued with secret thoughts and suspicions and fears and they have layered over your heart for years. And maybe on the outside you’re the life of the party, but on the inside, you know, you are very alone. It is not good to be alone.
There are some who battle the feelings of aloneness because of physical attributes that make you feel unacceptable. Maybe it is a skin color issue, or a weight issue, or maybe you are too short or too tall to feel like you fit, or you belong. I am talking about in church where people believe the word of God, and are filled with the Holy Spirit, and people are praying people, and have been forgiven of their sins and yet raging within them is a severe battle. It’s in their mind. They are are asking the question: Where do I belong? Where can I find someplace or someone who will love me just the way I am?
3. WE ALL NEED THE COMFORT THAT COMES FROM BEING LOVED
The word comfort simply means “To come alongside” or “to walk with”. That was the ministry of Jesus. Jesus came to earth to walk with men. Jesus came to earth to say, “God can become your friend. God is a friend of sinners.” Jesus came to earth to say, ” you don’t have to live alone anymore.”
It was also the ministry of the Holy Spirit. His name is Comforter. Jesus said, “I will not leave you as an orphan. I will not leave you friendless. I will not leave you in your loneliness.” And so the Holy Spirit was poured out.
And then, the ministry of the body of Christ is the ministry of comfort. We are called to walk alongside one another. I Thessalonians 5:11 says NKJV “Therefore comfort each other, and edify one another, just as you also are doing.” Let me just say this plain. The significance of the Holy Spirit is not just deliverance from strongholds. It is not just about miracles. It is not just about visions, dreams and prophecies. Thank God for all of that. The ministry of the Holy Spirit is also about having peace in our marriages and joy in our children and gentleness and hope among our friendships. It is about having people around you that celebrate your life, and lift you up when your down.
Thank God for miracles and wonders and tongues and all of those things. But if you come to this altar and get zapped by the Holy Spirit and your marriage is falling apart and you children live in fear of you, and you cry because you have no friends. What is the point of the whole thing?
THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT LOVE
Why doesn’t love last? The key is to develop love as a fruit of the Spirit. No real relationship will last without love. I don’t claim to be an expert in relationships. I do know that it is possible for love to last. Let me say it this way. Aloneness cannot be cured without love. I would dare say that most of us have found something that we think is love but how do we keep love from moving out of that exciting realm to what many find as an exhausting realm, to what many others then find as an expiring realm? How do you find a love that lasts? Whether we are talking about your marriage or your friendships or your children. We have to find a Holy Spirit love that will embrace people and endure for the long haul.
Most of us have learned by now that teenage love will not satisfy middle age relationships. Puppy love won’t get you through the dog days of life. So, where do we find a love that is longer than a 2 hour movie or longer than a 210 page novel?
I want to ask three questions that if we answer them it will keep love alive.
What is love?
What does love do?
What makes love last?
- What is love?
There are a couple of things that are not love.
- Love is not just a feeling.
It is not just a quiver in your liver kind of thing. It is not sex. It is not just goose bumps. It is not just that instant attraction that occurs between two people.
- Love is not uncontrollable.
I know that people say, “I just fell in love.” I was walking and all of a sudden love was there and just fell in love. I don’t want to be unromantic. Let’s get down to the nuts and bolts of life. I have also had people tell me, “I just fell out of love.” It makes sense. If you can fall in love, then logic would say, you can fall out of love but I want to tell you that neither of those is accurate. Love can be controlled.
- Love is a choice.
I love the movie Stepmother…have you seen it? It has Julia Roberts as the new wife. And Susan Sarandon as the divorced wife. And I will never forget a scene from that movie. The little boy is with the divorced mom and they are riding horses and mom is talking about the new wife in very ugly ways. The little boy says, I can hate her if you want me to. The mom just looks shocked.
And strangely enough in that movie love does win. But it had to be a choice. Here is the point, if I can choose to hate, I can choose to love. The fruit of the Holy Spirit love helps us to choose love. 1 Corinthians 14:1 The Message “Go after a life of love as if your life depended on it – because it does.” You see, you choose who you love and you choose how much you love them. You choose the degree of love which you give. So not only is love a choice. It is a conduct. It is a behavior.
3. What does love do? What makes Love last?
The real crisis of our culture, is that we are allowing the wrong influences to decide the behavior of love. I mean who decides for you how love behaves? The movie industry? Is it Facebook? Is it the Disney channel? The Bible tells you how love behaves. I will give it to you in four brief statements. They come from t1 Corinthians 13 that defines the behavior of love. The fruit of love will behave in this way. I have four sentences here.
- Love will last if it is patient.
1 Corinthians 13:4 “Love is patient…” The behavior of love is patient. Love will live if it gives time for your partner to develop. It will die if it is hurried and rushed. To be patient means, to give allowance to the other persons faults. Here is a revelation for you. Everybody has faults. Relationships find themselves in a crisis when somebody refuses to wait for the other person to get better, refuses to give time to change, refuses to give time to recover, refuses to give time to become motivated.
You say, “It’s so hard to wait!” I know, I know it’s hard to wait for someone to develop, but how many of you are glad that God is willing to wait for you to develop so that you can be formed after the image of the son of God. Love behaves patiently.
- Love learns how to care
Love will last if it is kind. Caring is kindness. 1 Corinthians 13b “…love is kind…” Love will live when it cares, when it’s kind. But love will die when it ignores kindness. What we are really talking about here is caring for people in the practical details of life. Men, this is washing dishes. Men this is taking out the trash. This is dirty diaper stuff. This is cleaning up after sick kids in the middle of the night. Love learns how to care if it is going to last. We are going to get practical about it.
We are going to have to learn how to care for people to grow the fruit of the Spirit love. Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” We need to remember that the other person is a whole lot like we are.
They are living with hurts.
They are living with mistakes.
They are living with challenges.
They are living with temptations.
And that means we have to be willing to give them so grace. We have to be willing to forgive them. What if they don’t deserve forgiveness? Then, we forgive them out of the forgiveness that has come to us from Christ, because we didn’t deserve forgiveness either.
- Love will last if it is secure.
1 Corinthians 13:4c “…It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.” Let me say it another way. Love will last if it is secure. It will die if it stops trusting. Those three behaviors, envy, boasting, and pride are the actions of an insecure person. People are insecure if they are living in a relationship without trust. Trust is the core of every relationship and the question becomes,
What are you doing to add insecurity to the relationship?
What are you hiding from your friend?
What are you hiding from your spouse?
What are you hiding from your children?
That as they learn about it threatens their security about you. What are the fears that the children have because of your behavior? Are they insecure because of a mood that you are in when you come home from work? What are you going to say in the heat of an argument that so devastates the person that they will never be able to get past it? Security comes when your commitment is established. Security comes when you don’t doubt the level of commitment.
- Love will last where there is sacrifice.
It will live where there is giving. It will die where there is taking. Some people think that love is just about an exchange. You know, you scratch my back kind of thing. And the world does that in business. I do something for you, then you do something for me. And we think that is the way it is supposed to work in our relationships. I’ll give you roses and you give me fishing poles. We think that love is exchange. We think it is I give you something, and then you give me something.
And that is where this whole thing begins to unravel. That is where relationships unravel. Because what happens is you end up thinking that you are Snow White and you got stuck with Dopey. You feel like Cinderella but your treated like the ugly sister. You gave but you never got. You gave but nothing ever came in return. Exchange never happened. and so now you hold your heart back and you say, I am going to wait until they give first. If they give first, then maybe we’ll see…but, what if they never give?
Well, it’s too big a risk. I am not going to make myself vulnerable to get hurt again. But it’s not good to be alone. Here is the good news. God has done for you what you’re not willing to do for another. He loved first. He risked it all that you might love him back. He put his heart on the line for you.
I am going to close this article with a quote from C. S. Lewis:
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
It’s time for our relationships to work and that will only happen as we develop the fruit of love in our lives by the Holy Spirit.