What is love? A question so many people have an answer to. And a question so many people have a different view of. Is it a feeling, a choice, an obligation? What should be our motive behind love or is it a response to something? Today I want to look at the first of the fruits of the Spirit.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness” Galatians 5:22 (ESV)
Let me say, I am not an expert on the bible nor on love, but what better way than to go to God’s Word and see what He say’s about love.
Paul wrote this letter to the Galatians amidst a controversy that was being taught. The belief was that we are sanctified by legalistic works. The laws and ceremonies of the old testament would bring about or make us sanctified. Part of Paul’s response brings about this idea of the fruit of the Spirit. What our lives look like in response to the gospel versus what our lives look like in response to the law. God used Paul as a perfect example of what a life looks like that is so focused on doing the works of the law, rather than following the One who gave us the law. What it looks like when our heart is inclined towards being perfect under the law instead of living a life in worship in response to the One who has justified us under His law, for in Christ we are perfect.
In Ephesians 5:9 Paul writes:
(for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true). (ESV)
Some other translations replace light with the word Spirit:
(for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth). (NKJV)
My purpose here is not textual criticism but rather the idea of the fruit of the spirit. What does the bible say. What happens when we examine the fruits in light of this idea of goodness, righteousness and truth? What does love look like in goodness, righteousness and truth?
So what is love? In the Greek it is the word agape which Strong’s defines as “love, benevolence, good will, esteem”. It is the noun taken from the verb agapaó which Strong’s gives the definition of “I love, wish well to, take pleasure in, long for; denotes the love of reason, esteem”.
I find it amazing that agape or love is taken from a verb. It is a word drawn from action. Helps defines agape this way:
26agápē – properly, love which centers in moral preference. So too in secular ancient Greek, 26 (agápē) focuses on preference; likewise the verb form (25/agapáō) in antiquity meant “to prefer” (TDNT, 7). In the NT, 26 (agápē) typically refers to divine love (= what God prefers).
In Galatian’s Paul used the word agape 2 other times. First in Galatians 5:6
“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.”
and also in Galatians 5:13
“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”
Both times Paul writes through love. Only faith working through love…through love serve one another. Through love is the means or the motivstion. So we are talking about faith by means of love and service by means of love. These ideas all connect. There is so much more that can be said but in regards to love take those two verses on love and connect them with the idea found previously in Galatians 5:6:
“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love… in all that is good and right and true”
and again in Galatians 5:13:
“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another… in all that is good and right and true”
What does that mean then, for love as a fruit of the Spirit? It is a heart and a will bent on excersing the faith given to us, in response to what Christ has done for us. To work out our salvation in fear and trembling, and in love acting on the love God has shown us. This fruit will be evident as the seed of God’s Word is planted in us. It will grow in us and through us. Laying roots deeply where it is planted. As we nuture this seed and tend to it, taking care of it. It will grow. It will have no choice as this is God’s design. And as it grow’s it will blossom eventually bearing fruit. The result of the seed God has planted within us. This fruit is love and based on God’s preference and desire for us. As a result our lives should be inclined towards God’s preference and desire to respond in love towards him.
This is such a simple idea and yet so difficult at times. I read a book called Voices of the heart, and in that book the author writes that the opposite of love is not hate, but rather apathy. If Jesus gave us the model of love which is action in goodwill, righteousness and truth, then I agree that the opposite of love is apathy. It is a lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern. If my actions are not motivated by the genuine benefit for the other person than it is not motivated by love. It is in apathy that selfishness grows. It is lack of concern for the other person or people. It is desiring what I want or what I need… what is good for me, right for me, in my truth.
I have been so confused by relativism at times and the notion that truth is not absolute. But I believe the Word of God. He says that truth is found in His word and is also a product of the fruit of the Spirit. In love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness. In these things are goodwill, righteousness and truth. And of these things God leads with love. Love is an action that is motivated by the desire or benefit of another. Not for selfish reasons but because you care or desire for them. I miss this mark often, but I can go to God’s word and see exactly what Jesus did and why He did it. I can look to God and see where I missed it. By the power of the Holy Spirit, I can be pruned and through that process fruit can grow, rather than the branches withering and dying. And this fruit contains the seed of God. And the seed of God will not be contained. That seed will find fertile soil elsewhere. We can choose not to tend to it and let it die or we can respond in love to the One who is the author of love. Desiring that goodwill, righteousness and truth benefit Him. Bringing Glory to God.
Father, that you would be our first love. That we would have the seed of Your Word within us and bear the fruit of your Spirit. That our lives would be lived in response to Your love. In response to Your goodwill, righteousness and truth. That we would live lives desiring to bless Your name. That we would be overflowing of the fruit of the Spirit in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness. That we would not withhold these things for Your desire is that we grow and that we help each other to grow in Christ. Let us not withdraw when we need to be pruned, but know that deep roots will still draw nourishment and the tree will bear fruit again because it is rooted in You. Let these roots take hold that they would not be shallow roots, but roots so deep that we are like a tree planted by a river of water. The life giving water of Christ. The source of all that is good, right and true. In Jesus name, amen.
God bless you,