This is the first post in a series on my musings over the fruit of God’s Spirit as found in Galatians 5:22-23.
“The fruit of the Spirit is love.”
The Spirit’s love actively places supreme value on the loved.
(Incidentally, it’s only fitting that love kicks off this series since today marks the 30th anniversary with my beloved wife. As you read this, we’ll be on the Mediterranean coast of Italy hiking Cinque Terre, then sporting through the Piedmont and Tuscan regions for 2 weeks and stopping for a glass of vino where Copernicus lived. La bella vita!)
- The Spirit’s love is sacrificial. “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph 5:25) “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters” (1 Jn 3:16; John 3:16).
- The Spirit’s love is practical. “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth” (1 Jn 3:17-18).
- The Spirit’s love relentlessly pursues us and radically demonstrates his commitment to us, despite our unloveliness. “The Lord said to me, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another man and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods.” (Hosea 3:1) “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (also Rom. 5:8; Dt 7:7-8).
- The Spirit’s love takes the first step; it always makes the first move. “In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will” (Eph 1:4-5) “We love because he first loved us” (1 Jn 4:19).
- The Spirit’s love is extended to everyone without distinction. “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back” (Lk 6:35).
- Similarly, the Spirit’s love is extended to all believers without distinction and is the identifying mark of our discipleship. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (Jn 13:34-35).
- The Spirit’s love is more than a feeling in us; it is an objective expression of our obedience to Christ’s commands. “If you love me, keep my commands…Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me…Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching” (Jn 14:15, 21, 23).
Sidebar: The oft noted biblical word for love (agape) does not always translate to something like “selfless, sacrificial, unconditional love.” It can refer to Amnon’s incestuous rape of his half-sister Tamar (2 Sam 13:15, LXX) or Paul’s lament that Demas “loved this present, evil world” and forsook him and the ministry (2 Tim 4:10). A blanket definition for everywhere agape occurs simply will not do. It’s erroneous to assume that agape always means a special kind of divine love (see D.A. Carson, Exegetical Fallacies, p. 30ff). As always, context is king.