Notes before you begin reading:
I’ve created a playlist and a few study notes for anyone interested. The study notes are Bible study style if you are interested in learning and growing more in this area. Feel free to print them, mark them up, and share them. Or ignore them altogether. The playlist is comprised of songs specific to the topic that touched my heart as I wrote out the blog and study notes.
Thank you for joining me on this journey,
When I sat down to start thinking about the fruit of the Spirit love, my first thoughts were to define this according to culture. This was intentional. I wanted to compare/contrast the views of love from culture and scripture. Doing this can help create a better idea of where we are allowing culture to have a greater influence over our lives than our relationship with God.
Personally, when I think about love I think about Valentine’s Day. I know, I know. Throw your phone or computer across the room. I’m the worst. It’s cool, I’m aware. There are hearts and flowers and chocolates. There is an expectation. That’s more of what I think about, the expectation that there is someone or others we are to share this day with. As someone who has been single forever (only a slight exaggeration) it’s easy to feel left out of the love fest everyone else seems to be posting on social media.
I also started thinking about the people … and things … I love. I have a group of people I refer to as my favorites. They are my favorite people for different reasons. We’ve mostly stuck together through incredibly difficult times of our lives as well as some of the most fun times. We celebrate together and we cry together. We laugh and we learn. Then there are my favorite things, or things I love: chocolate, ice cream, flowers, macaroni and cheese, tv and streaming services, internet, etc.
There are a lot of things I love. More than people. It’s sad, but it’s true. I wouldn’t die for those things. I wouldn’t even fight someone for those things. The people, the people are different. My closest friends, who are more like sisters to me, are part of who I am. In hard times I’ve driven hours to be with them and they have done the same for me. They are who I want to be with me when I’m sick or when I celebrate. They are my favorites in every way.
In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
According to the Greek, love mentioned in this verse is agapē (pronounced ä-gä’-pā). Love here means affection or benevolence; a love feast, a feast of charity, dear. This particular type of love, agape, is mentioned 116 times throughout the New Testament. It comes in the form of warnings and promise.
John 13:35 tells us that the world will know we are a disciple of Christ by our love (agape) for one another. Later in the book of John we see that “greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). When we love one another with the love of Christ, we show others that we are following Him. We love our friends with such a deep love that if anything were to come in front of them, we would ask that it be us and not them. Christ laid down His life for us (Romans 5:8). He chose to love us in the most sacrificial way, fulfilling John 15:13. In this, we have been protected from the separation from this love (Romans 8:35-39). He tells us that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.
Romans seems to echo what is written in John by reminding us that “love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is fulfilling the law” (Romans 13:10). When we love others we do not seek to harm them. When we love them we do not want to see harm come to them. When we love them we want to help them and see the best for them. When we put others first, we love them best. We are not seeking sinful choices, but rather to promote the gospel in both their life and our own.
The first half of I Corinthians 13 defines agape love for us.
If I speak in the tongues of men and angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant, or rude. It does not seek its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice over wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away… So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:1-8; 13
If we speak without love, we are just noisy. With faith in our lives but no love, we are nothing. When we donate or give things away or share with the needy, but have no love … nothing. It tells us what love is and isn’t. It is patient, kind, rejoicing in truth. It is not envious, boastful, arrogant, rude, selfish, irritable, resentful, rejoicing in wrongdoing. Verse 8 says, “love never fails”. Verse 13 says “the greatest of these is love”. We have faith and hope, but without love, we have nothing. If we lose our love for our neighbors (anyone other than ourselves) we are left with nothing. Paul’s final instructions to the Corinthians (16:14) includes “let all that you do be done in love”.
What would it look like for us to live lives of love? To love God with “all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30)? To love “your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31)? What does it look like to give ourselves over to the fruit of the Spirit of love? Would you give that panhandler a pack of crackers from your car or intentionally start carrying them in your car for them? Would you help that single mom in your kid’s school? Would you invite an international or refugee or immigrant over to your house for dinner? What does it look like for you to allow the love of God to be poured into your life from the Spirit (Rom 5:5)?
Prior to the listing of the fruits of the Spirit, Paul tells us “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.” (Gal 5:13). We have been given freedom, yet we are called to use our freedom to love others. Are we doing that? Are you doing that?
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
Colossians 3:12-14 (emphasis added)
Some of these we will touch on later in the series as they are part of the fruits of the Spirit. All of these work together, but again, as stated in I Corinthians 13, if we have not love …
Love binds everything together in perfect harmony. When we love our neighbor or when we show compassion, or when we are kind, all of these tied together with love binds it together.
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Love binds other aspects of character together, but we should also be stirring up one another to love and good works. There are many things that come with loving others. It often times (if not always) requires a sacrifice on our behalf. Over half of I John 4 talks about God’s love (agape). It tells us that God is love (verse 8). He is the very definition of agape love. All of the verses above, that is God. That is the love of God. When we abide by these verses – loving our neighbors, showing love according to I Cor 13 – we are showing the very character and nature of God. “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us” (I John 4:11-12). His love is perfected in us. This takes us all the way back to John 13:35: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” We come full circle to see that when we love others we display the very character of God therefore revealing an unseen God to others.
Christ displayed love to everyone He came in contact with. He would dine with those who were considered gross or bad or ungodly. Christ broke the church norms. He broke the cultural norms. He “colored outside of the lines,” so to speak. The things Christ did made the religious people (Pharisees) really angry. The way Christ loved the lost, the sinners, the tax collectors, the *fill in the blank with what you view as sinful* caused the Pharisees to want to murder Him. They considered this blasphemy and crime against their religious norms.
And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that He was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to His disciples, ‘why does He eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ And when Jesus heard it, He said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.’
When we love like Christ loved/s we are going to look different than people in our community and church and friend group. When Jesus encountered the woman at the well (John 4:1-42), He treated her with love, kindness, and respect. It was outside the cultural norm for Jews to interact with Samaritans. On top of that, it was a woman. The disciples were shocked that He was speaking with her and asked themselves why is He speaking with her. They did not ask these questions aloud, but they quietly wondered what was happening.
As I read through the parables and the gospels, I love seeing the heart of Christ. The Parable of the Great Banquet (Luke 14:12-24) shows us a sweet part of Christ’s heart. He introduces the parable with a lesson, saying:
When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your rich neighbors, lest they also invite you and in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind, and you will be blessed because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.
He uses the parable to enforce this point. He tells of a great banquet where friends and family had plenty of time to prepare. At the time of the banquet, everyone was making excuses. So the master of the house had his people invite everyone else they could find. They invited all they could find that were poor and lame and crippled and blind. There was still space to be filled at the tables. So they went to the highways and roads and tried to find all that were around until the banquet was filled with those who would never be able to repay for the feast. Christ never said love until x happens. Or love until you are annoyed. No. He lived a life of love. He told us to begin. We often get caught up in the “where does it end” and lose sight of the “we need to start somewhere”.
Which is a perfect way to lead into the parable of The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). A lawyer asked Jesus how to inherit eternal life:
And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
The lawyer then asked, “who is my neighbor?” This is what leads Christ to respond with the parable of The Good Samaritan. I heard a pastor once teach on this and he told the congregation to think about what they believe. Imagine that someone had come in and taken their beliefs and slightly twisted them just so. They told people to worship differently and think differently and do things subtly differently. Now imagine that they know that there is a community who believes and lives that way. He used this as the modern example of the parable.
You walk past (or drive past) someone who has been beaten and bloodied and left for dead. Do you stop and help them? According to statistics (I know everyone loves those) the more people that witness a crime the less likely it is to be resolved or reported. That’s because everyone assumes someone else will deal with it. You do not stop and you are a Christian. You assume someone will help them. You as a pastor or in a ministry role at your church, you walk/drive by and assume someone else will help. That person who has twisted your belief, they stop and they help. They do so without care of what others think. They give up their reputation, their dignity, their resources, their time … all to make sure this John Doe/Jane Doe on the side of the road can be helped.
Let’s take it a step further, to something different. Someone in your church talks to a leader about being abused or sexually assaulted. The leader in the church doesn’t do anything. The person reports it to the pastor but the pastor says to pray about it and to ask God to make it stop and bring the abuser to Christ. The person reports it to a Muslim friend, and that friend proceeds to get the person help and aids in counseling and advises the person find a new place of worship.
When we love others, we show them the love of God. We show them the love that has been poured out on us by the Holy Spirit. If we choose not to show that love to others, God will use someone outside of us to share that. God in His very nature is love. In believing that He is the creator of all things, the ruler of all things, I believe that God can use anyone and everyone to show His love – especially when other believers choose to withhold that love from others. Matthew 5:46 says “for if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?”
Complete and total side note:
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