Some call it the “Harvest of the Spirit” while most simply refer to is as the text says, “Fruit of the Spirit.” “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23). These are the result of a life lived according to the Spirit of God. While this is not a step-by-step list, it would stand to reason that love sits squarely at the beginning. Without love, we are nothing.
There are a number of examples of love, teachings on love, and pictures of love in the Bible. Perhaps the most well-known is found in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” In the same way we hold up a light to a prism so we can see the various facets of light, Paul is holding up love, revealing the facets of love. And there are 16 facets revealed in this passage. It is important to notice that all of these statements are verbs…that’s really important. In other words, love is active. It is not passive. Love is only love when it acts.
Augustine said, “What does it look like? It has hands to help others, feet to hasten to the poor and needy, eyes to see misery and want, ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That’s what love looks like.” It’s been said that “Love is listening when another is speaking, overlooking petty faults and forgiving all failures. Love is valuing other people for who they are and expressing it in a practical way.” Paul was not so much showing us what love is as he was showing us what love does and doesn’t do.
Somewhere between 81 and 96 CE, the Apostle John was exiled to the Isle of Patmos by the emperor Domitian for preaching the Gospel at Ephesus. The Gospel declares that Jesus is Lord and God, but Domitian required to be called Dominus et Deus, “Lord and God.” Something had to give! It has been told that to shut him up, Domitian had John thrown into a cauldron of boiling oil at Rome, but John suffered no injury! The only way that Domitian could get rid of him was the same way he got rid of his wife – exile. It was on Patmos that John wrote Revelation. At the Emperor Domitian’s death in 97 CE, John returned to Ephesus where he lived the remainder of his life.
John was exiled to Patmos because of his stand for the word of God and proclaiming the truth of Jesus Christ. That is the character of John. He was an unrelenting, authoritative herald of God’s word. His teaching cut to the core of one’s inner being; it exposed all that an individual was in character, substance, and nature. It is no wonder Domitian hated John and had him exiled. But one interesting truth is that John was compelled by love. He wrote, “We love Him, because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). A person who is apathetic about God’s purpose for their life is someone who has yet to understand what God has done for them through Christ.
What has the love of Christ compelled you to do? How has it changed your conversation with others? Has it made you do things you might not have otherwise done? The standard lifestyle of the average person is to “live for yourself,” or “look out for number one.” But Paul says that someone who truly understands and has been impacted by what Christ has done is much different. “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). Sometimes, we become desensitized to the love God has for us. But that ought not be so. We ought to always keep in the front of our minds the wonderful, everlasting love of God that He freely showers upon us. But this requires us giving Him our all.
C.S. Lewis said, “The Christian way is different: harder and easier. Christ says ‘Give me All. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want you. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half-measures are any good. I don’t want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down. I don’t want to drill the tooth, or crown it, or stop it, but to have it out. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked — the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself: my own will become yours.’” It is love that compels us to live our lives seeking to honor and glorify God. Because of who He is, because of His great love for us, we know what love is, we know what love does and doesn’t do.
Love is patient. Love is kind. Love does not envy. Love does not boast. Love is not arrogant. Love is not rude. Love does not insist on its own way. Love is not irritable. Love is not resentful. Love does not rejoice in wrongdoing. Love rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things. Love believes all things. Love hopes all things. Love endures all things. Love never ends.