Love: Defined Indefinitely (Fruits of the Spirit part 1)

“The fruit of the Spirit is…love”

The word “love” has to be the most ubiquitous and also the most ambiguous word in our English vernacular. The most widely used yet least practiced and understood. First and foremost, for us to truly appropriate such a powerful idea into our lives as pleasing to God we’ll need to see it and define it as God does. 1 John 4:8 says that “God is love”. I think that’s a good place to start.

Paul thought so too. In listing the fruits of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), Paul rightly places “love” at the top. “The greatest of these is love”, he said in his first letter to the Corinthians (13:13). Jesus showed His love by living a perfect life as an example and then giving up His life for us by dying on the cross. He said, in effect, that there was no greater way to exhibit love to someone than to “lay down [their] life for [their] friends.” (John 15:13). A perfect illustration of this kind of love in action was shown to me by my father during my parents’ divorce. When I had issues of anger and resentment toward one or both of my parents, rather than assert his opinions in a dogmatic way, he shelved his own heartache and let me say my piece (and storm out of the house if need be) and he listened. Then (upon my coming home) God would have given him the very thing to tell me that I needed to hear to solve each individual mystery I faced. But it cost him something. He had to lay down his own life, his plans and his opinions on how I should be dealing and let me be (and become) who God says I am. And I will ever be grateful to him for the love he showed. It got me through the tryingest time of my life.

Before you run off and play, try this on. Think of God’s love for you as a suit of clothing that is hanging in your closet and God as it’s tailor. He designed this suit for you and you alone. As you wear that suit and realize that this is how God sees you, you won’t be satisfied with anything else. It’s like your own God-suit. This analogy was one definition of love that was taught me by my dad.

(Today’s his birthday, by the way. Happy Birthday to my wonderful Christlike father.)

Fructify! (Fruits of the Spirit Intro)

Are you familiar with the fruits of the Spirit? In the letter to the Galatians, Paul lists nine qualities that are integral to the believer’s life (5:23). And as we live our lives before the Lord in worship and humility, the Holy Spirit is going to develop each one in turn.

These nine qualities: love, joy, peace, long-suffering (or patience), gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness (or teachability), and temperance (or self-control) are more than just emotion, more than a mental activity. Each one is an aspect, a component of Jesus’ very character and personality. And if we define these oft-repeated qualities any other way than how Jesus would, we dilute their true meaning.

In the posts that follow we’ll inspect one fruit at a time.