Fruits of the Spirit: Love Does
A healthy tree bears good fruit.
Pretty simple, right? If that apple tree in your backyard is healthy, it is going to give you a nice crop of red or green apples. On the other hand, if there is an infestation of a parasite, your apples are going to be ruined. And no one wants to eat the apple with the nasty brown spot.
It is the same with Christians. A healthy Christian bears good fruit. Obviously, we are not going to sprout peaches (however awesome that may be). The Holy Spirit though, gives us a portion of nine fruits of the Spirit that all Christians are supposed to possess.
“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” –Galatians 5:22-23
Over the next few months we are going to look at each individual fruit of the Spirit and what it means to us as believers. What does it look like in real life? How can we get it to grow in our lives?
First up is love. I don’t believe that it is a coincidence that Paul lists love first. Love is, after all, at the center of everything. When sin entered the world, it was His love for us that spurred God to action, creating a plan that would save us from the price of sin. It was love that kept Jesus on that cross. And it is love that is the root of all that the Holy Spirit produces within us.
Paul uses here the Greek word agapē. Its definition, according to Strong’s Concordance, is “the active love of God for his Son and his people, and the active love his people are to have for God, each other, and even enemies.” This isn’t a passive love. This isn’t you declaring that you feel love towards someone. This is love in action.
How can you actively love God?
The Bible tells us that “loving God means keeping His commandments” (1 John 5:3). Our way of showing God we love him is by walking in obedience and doing only the things that please Him.
“For the commandments say, ‘You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not covet.’ These – and other such commandments – are summed up in this one commandment: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law.” -Romans 13:9-10
So to actively love God we need to keep his commandments and love those we come into contact with as much as we love our own selves.
We must also love each other
In 2 John 1:6, we are told that “love means doing what God has commanded us, and He has commanded us to love one another.” Remember that this is an active love. Saying “I love you” is not agapē love.
1 Corinthians 13 is often read at weddings, but it really is about this active love. Our actions are not to be done out of a desire to bring glory to ourselves or to belittle others. I think the most famous example of this active love is Mother Teresa. She spent her adulthood actively loving on those who were considered the least of these, the sick, the hungry, the poor, and the dying. She gave selflessly and loved endlessly.
And always love your enemies
It is so easy to love people who are kind to us. It is much more difficult to love those who are mean. But guess what? God wants us to love these people, too. This is where that love in action gets hard.
Pray for them (Matt 5:44). Bless, but do not curse them (Romans 12:14). Do good to those who hate you (Luke 6:27). Jesus on the cross is the ultimate example of loving our enemies: He cried out for God to forgive those who put him there.
“If you enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.” -Romans 12:20
I was reading a book this week by one of the Duck Dynasty cast members. When Phil was a commercial fisherman, he would sometimes come across people stealing fish from his nets. Instead of getting angry at the men, he would take the opportunity to love his enemies. He often shared the gospel and his fish with those who were attempting to steal from him. He would feed their bodies and their souls. Some people even came to Jesus after their river confrontation with Phil. You might not agree with some of Phil’s beliefs, but you have to admit this is a great example of loving your enemies.
So let’s work on growing the fruit of love – active love – in our lives:
Develop It: Let’s spend some time with God over the next couple weeks. Look for ways others have showed active love in the Bible. Ask God to make your heart more like His so that you can see and love others as He does.
“As we live in God, our love grows more perfect.” -1 John 4:17
Practice It: Find ways to put love in action. Send a card of encouragement to a fellow believer. Bake cookies or muffins for someone who is going through a difficult time. React with love to those who wrong you. Serve a meal at a soup kitchen. Offer to babysit your neighbor’s kids for an evening.
Hide It: God tells us to hide His word in our hearts. We do that by memorizing scripture. Let’s commit this verse to memory. Write it where you will see it often during the day:
“Do everything with love.” -1 Corinthians 16:14
How are you going to put love into action?
// image by Esther Watson