The first part of the fruit listed is love. On the surface, the idea of love being on the list seems pretty easy, after all we all love. We love our spouse, our kids, our friends and of course we all love our pastor. When we focus on love in this way it makes it easy for us to forget that the love Jesus calls on us to have is so much more than this. In the Greek language there were three basic words that were used for love.
One is the word “eros” which referred to sexual or erotic love. This is a love that is based upon sexual attraction.
Another is the word “phileo” which referred to brotherly love. This is a reciprocal love that is based on friendship.
Then there is the word “agape” which is an unselfish and sacrificial love. This is a love that loves regardless of feelings—whether a person feels like loving or not. It loves a person even if the person does not deserve to be loved. It actually loves the person who is utterly unworthy of being loved. Unless I am mistaken this word is always the word used when speaking about God’s love for us.
It is this word “agape” that is part of the fruit of the Spirit. A major part of the idea here is that we are to love others with the same kind of unselfish and sacrificial love that God has loved us with. This is God’s love for us as undeserving sinners that were also unloving enemies (see Romans 5:6-10).
Think about what that means to us. This means in part that we don’t get to pick and choose who it is that we want to love. We are to love everyone regardless of anything else. We are to follow God’s example and love our enemies and those who don’t love us (see Luke 6:27 and Luke 6:32).
The best explanation of what love in action looks like comes from 1 Corinthians.
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NKJV)
I like to personalize this verse to see if I really do this. Read through the verse again and replace love with your name. When you personalize this passage does it ring true with the way you treat those in your life? When we are living Spirit filled, Spirit controlled lives it will be. This is the kind of love that the Holy Spirit produces in our life.
Yesterday I wrote about the Holy Spirit’s part and our part in developing these traits. As we look at the type of love that we are supposed to have for others it’s a pretty tall order. So what do we do as our part to develop this kind of love? I think there are two things that we must do as our part.
Want to love in this way. I’m afraid one of the reasons we don’t love the way Scripture says we should is that we really don’t want have this kind of love. We are totally okay with loving and showing a measure of love to those that love us or are like us. We are not as okay with loving and showing love to those we don’t like, don’t like us and aren’t like us. We must genuinely want to love others with the same kind of love that God has given to us.
Surrender to God. The best I can tell God rarely forces us to grow and change in these ways. He could but He chooses not to. Instead, He lays out the best way, which is His way, and then encourages us to willingly choose this way. God wants us to love everyone with the same kind of love He has loved us with.
This is an act of surrender on our parts. It is surrendering our will to God’s will. It is saying that since God’s way is best I will submit to God’s way. When we talk about submission and surrender one of the most important aspects about it to remember is that it’s not surrender or submission until we DON’T want to do it. Surrendering or submitting to God is saying, “Even though this isn’t what I want to do I’m going to do it since it’s what you want me to do.”
This may mean we will have to give up sinful racial prejudices. It may mean that we have to give up our sinful pride that makes us feel that we are better than others are. It may mean that we get out of our comfort zone to help others. It may mean that we give someone another chance even though he or she has let us down so many times in the past.
It may mean that we stop bringing up different ways that someone has wronged us in the past. It may mean that we choose not to give up on a relationship that we are considering giving up on. It may mean that we stop telling jokes that denigrate a person, race or sex. It may mean that I put someone else’s wants and desires ahead of my own. It may mean any number of different things to each of us. But whatever it means to you and to me, we must do it.