HAPPY NEW YEAR ALL! This first post of the new year will begin a series examining the Fruit of the Spirit and how they can inform us in our daily lives. What a great way to kick off 2017!
The Fruit of the Spirit are commonly noted as: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These nine attributes of a Christian life were discussed by the Apostle Paul when he wrote to the church in Galatia (in the book of Galatians), and Paul explains that these are characteristics to be sought after because they position us away from the things that hurt and harm. We should seek them day after day, relentlessly. We should live them out, for fulfillment outside of the things this world values. These characteristics inform us about who God is, and who He calls us to be. Today, we’ll look at LOVE.
Paul explains what love is best in verse 24-26 of Galatians 5.
“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the self with its passions and its desires. If we live by the Spirit, let’s follow the Spirit. Let’s not become arrogant, make each other angry, or be jealous of each other.”
There are different types of love, and here we are looking at the love that God has shown us, and what he desires we show others. This love is getting outside of oneself, and giving to others. It’s choosing others over self. This love is altruism. This love is sacrifice. In this instance, we know that the love intended here is “agape” love.
“Agape (love) denotes a really undefeatable benevolence and unconquerable goodwill, that always seeks the highest of the other, no matter what s/he does. It is the self-giving love that gives freely without asking anything in return, and does not consider the worth of its object. Agape is more a love by choice than philos, which is love by chance; and it refers to the will rather than the emotion” (Wikipedia).
The Fruit of Love is, I believe, the greatest of the fruits outlined by Paul.
“You were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only don’t let this freedom be an opportunity to indulge your selfish impulses, but serve each other through love.” (Galatians 5: 13).
According to some scholars, the word “love” appears 551 times in the NIV translation of the Bible—God’s love letter to His people. That’s pretty amazing! And it’s also quite telling. It is God’s most important message to us. That we might live and flourish in His unending, undying love for us, and that we may show it to and share it with others, living it out in our daily lives. In fact, He’s VERY clear about it:
“Teacher, what is the greatest commandment in the Law?” He [Jesus] replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: You must love your neighbor as you love yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.” (Matthew 22:36-40)
Quite honestly, I’m not sure how much clearer the message can be to us today. Jesus, having used parables and eloquent story-telling to share His message, is straight-forward and to the point here. He leaves nothing to the imagination. What are we to do in this life we’ve been given? LOVE. Openly, whole-heartedly, freely, selflessly. And yes, sometimes it’s easier than others. Perhaps that’s where honing those other characteristics can help us. But it is our greatest life’s work to Love.
So, as we turn to a new page in this year 2017, one that is fresh and clean with no marks upon it, I pray that I can continue to further hone this LOVE characteristic that Paul set forth and that Jesus commanded. May 2017 bring you new opportunities to love and be loved!
Now faith, hope, and love remain—these three things—and the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13: 13 CEB)