The fruit of the Spirit is LOVE
By Ossie Fountain
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love
– Galatians 5:22
Jesus … had loved his disciples during his ministry on earth, and now he loved them to the very end
– John 13:1
This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you
– John 15:12
Love is the first focus of the Spirit in our Christian lives. Perhaps we can say that Spirit-inspired love is the most comprehensive of the fruit. Paul’s great hymn to love in 1 Corinthians 13 expresses this most profoundly:
- Without it I am nothing more than noise and I gain nothing.
- With it the other fruit of the Spirit grow: patience, kindness, patience endurance and hope.
- Love lasts forever and grows us in preparation for eternity.
Love is the epitome of the Mosaic Law. So when Jesus came to earth as the world’s best Lover, he thereby fulfilled and completed the Law. As Jesus spelled out to his questioners one day, the two dimensions of this divine mandate are to love God totally and to love our neighbours as we love ourselves. These two match each other and go together. No one has ever done that as Jesus has.
The New Testament chose a rare word for love (agapē, ‘αγαπη) to describe the love of God for human beings, and the love he desires to be reflected in our lives. What is agapē love?
- It is commitment love. The lover gives himself completely to the interests and welfare of the loved one.
- It is serving love. It is the love of a slave or loyal servant to his master. Its goal is to focus on the desires and goals of the owner of the household and find out how best to fulfill the owner’s wishes. It is the highest form of intense loyalty.
- It is divine love. It is fundamentally God’s initiative to love. God is agapē love (1 John 4:8,16)
The birth, life and death of Jesus are the unique demonstration of the love of God for us. This is the love of a loving God who dares to leave his glory and eternal state, to become so much one with us that he is prepared to be misunderstood, misrepresented, ignored and even hated, because he embodies the intense love of God that is prepared to carry the ills and aches, the sinful waywardness and even the rejection of the objects of his love.
The Spirit of God enters our lives and begins to grow agapē love in us. He works this transformation in several directions. First, towards God. We respond to the experience of being drawn into the intense love of God. He creates worship in our lives. We learn to live worshipfully. Second, we begin to exercise agapē love towards ourselves. When we know we are loved by God, we see that God’s love desires to clean the rubbish out of our lives. We learn to repent of our sins and to struggle with unholy things in our lives. Third, we begin to exercise agapē love toward others. We learn to see that unlovely people are loved by God. We learn then to care for others with the hands God gave us.
We learn that what some people regard as a waste of energy and talents — for example, a lifetime spent in learning the language of a small tribal group in order to translate God’s word into it, may be God’s love expressing the tender heart of these people’s Father. They learn that God speaks their language, thinks in their idiom and understands their hearts.
Invaded by the agapē love of God, we will never be the same. It is a transforming love that pours us out at the feet of Jesus (Matthew 26:6-13).