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Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs. Proverbs 10:12

Many years ago I Proverbs 10 12was playing on a church softball team. It was our first year playing in the league and we weren’t very good. Most of our players were young teens, some had never really played ball.

One week we were playing one of the better teams in the league and, as expected, it wasn’t much of a game. On one particular play a rather large woman on the other team was running from first to second. Our second base-person, a small 12-year-old girl, was just getting ready to catch the ball and make the play at the base when she was completely flattened by the base runner, jarring the ball loose so that she arrived safely on base. Fair play? Yes. Appropriate under the conditions, I thought not.

I went out to help the girl up and make sure she was okay. As I left I had a few choice, not exactly Christian, words for the base runner who was now standing smugly on base. The guy who was with me grabbed my arm and helped me off the field as the woman said “Hey, it was her fault. She was in the baseline.”

I stood in the dugout seething about the dangerous play and smug attitude of the base-runner until a small voice inside reminded me that ‘Hatred stirs up dissension’. My anger turned to conviction for my words and as the inning ended I headed out to the field. I took a slight side trip and walked by the opposing dugout, not to get a parting shot, but to apologize to Joyce, the base-runner.

The next day at work I was talking with a friend of mine who happened to have been playing on the other team the night before. In the course of our conversation he chuckled and said “Boy, you really sent Joyce spinning last night.”

I asked what he meant and he explained that Joyce didn’t have much respect from anyone on the team. They were all angry with her behavior the night before and she had done similar things in other games. But after I apologized for my outburst she walked around the rest of the game asking ‘Why did he say that?’ ‘Why did he apologize.’

My words of apology had sent a message far deeper into her soul than the outburst I’d sent her way earlier.

There are always going to be people in our lives that hurt us. There will always be those who betray us, lie to us and in some way abuse us. When we’ve been wronged the easy way out is to become angry, defensive and full of hate. The healthy way out is to practice forbearance. By definition forbearance means to have patience, self-control, restraint and tolerance. Forbearance doesn’t mean I agree with the way you are. It doesn’t mean I’ll trust you again. It doesn’t mean what you did doesn’t matter.

What forbearance does mean is that in the name of love I will forgive you. Forgiveness is for the benefit of the one wronged, not the perpetrator of the hurt. In other words, I forgive you for what you did to me so I can be healthy.

Forbearance can’t be practiced effectively without help from the Holy Spirit of God. When we are in tune with our Heavenly Father; when we live in recognition of the pain he bore, the patience he has with us; the power we have available to us through his Spirit, then, and only then can we live at peace with those who we don’t agree with or oppose us.

May each of us learn to daily live in the power of forbearance!

PRAYER: Father God, I pray for those of us who are living under the weight of abuse and hurt. I ask that through the power of your Spirit we may be able to be patient with those who fail us; live a life of self-control when we’d rather lash out; and live in tolerance of those who have different beliefs than ours. In a word, Lord, help us to live in a way that your unconditional love will shine out to others. In Jesus Name, Amen.

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

Allow me to vent a little bit! If you have followed Christ or been involved in church and Bible Study for any length of time you have no doubt heard the verses quoted above. We’ve been ‘reminded’ through books, sermons and Sunday School lessons to ‘be filled with the Spirit’ and that if we are our lives will be marked by all the good things in life. Things that there is no law against.

After all, who is going to go to jail for being guilty of ‘love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness or self-control?’ No one of course. In fact, just the opposite will happen. We’ll be respected (although some may call us weird), loving people.

So, here is my vent. I agree that we should all strive to be filled with the Holy Spirit of God. If we have asked Christ to forgive us and desire a close relationship with Him, reliance on the Holy Spirit isn’t optional, it’s imperative.

However, as someone who, admittedly, isn’t always very loving,, joyful, peaceful, forbearing, kind, good, faithful, gentle or self-controlled I struggle. Sometimes it seems like no matter how hard I try there just isn’t always a healthy crop of ‘spiritual fruit’ hanging from the branches of my life.

If you have ever felt like an apple tree with more branches and leaves than crisp red fruit then you know how I feel. Then, again, as I thought about that I got thinking more about what goes into a healthy crop of fruit and was encouraged by what I learned. Hopefully, my ‘vents’ will help you in your walk as well.

The most important aspect of growing healthy fruit is time. I think many of us expect that once we decide to follow Christ, or renew a relationship with him, that we will instantly become healthy fruit-bearing Christ-followers. While there may be some miraculous exceptions to the rule, most fruit takes time to mature.

Don’t give up on yourself when you don’t see instant success in bearing fruit. Fruit trees have to weather many storms and harsh winters before they see an abundance of fruit hanging from their branches.

Secondly, healthy fruit trees are a result of intensive, consistent care and nurturing. That’s a two-fold challenge for us. First of all, take care of your ‘tree’ by spending time learning from God’s word, developing a consistent prayer life and instilling accountability with other ‘trees’ who have weathered the storms. You have to be healthy to have healthy fruit.

The second challenge in healthy fruit is that you can’t expect results in others overnight any more than your changes happen over night. To bring others into relationship with Christ can take a long time because there are hurdles of the past, current situations and self-esteem issues to overcome. Be patient with the blossoms and young fruit in your care. Slow growth and time are crucial in healthy fruit.

Lastly, remember that ultimately, the healthy growth of fruit is out of your hands. The orchard grower knows that he can only do so much to bring a healthy crop. Some things (like nature) are out of his control. Do what you can in your own life, and in the lives of others to make growing conditions the best they can be. But remember that only God can really change you or others. Healthy, mature fruit is ultimately in His hands alone.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, much as I want to be a healthy producer of fruit in my life and the lives of others, I confess that I fall short on a daily basis. There are times when I have just given up on trying to live a life that shows the power of Your Holy Spirit because I’ve failed so many times. Forgive me for the failures, empower me to keep trying, give me patience as I let time and reliance on you work in my life and the lives of others. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

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