In Galatians Chapter 5 Paul wrote about love being the great agent of expression in following Christ and living by the Spirit. In verse 6 he states that “the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” And then in verse 14: “For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: Love your neighbor as yourself.” He was writing about God’s love, not our very limited human love, but agape love that embraces, forgives, and pours out to everyone indiscriminately. He was speaking of God’s love which flows out to us and to every living creature and thing in the universe, not for us to capture and keep as our own, but so that it can be poured back out of us to everyone we meet. And Paul still calls us today to be a part of that flow of God’s love—in and out and around and through us out again to everyone we meet.
In verses 22-3 Paul defined the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. He is not saying that these are qualities we are to adopt, so that we can be true to God. These are the fruit, like the end product of a plant growth process, that cannot be reproduced in any way except through the ripening of the plant from the bud to the flower to the death of the flower so that the fruit can grow and ripen and finally be mature enough to be picked.
So it is with our relationship with God. We must go through many stages of gradually deepening our dependence on the Lord, starting with baby steps through a flowering in the relationship to the setting of the fruit until its maturation—a person living in the arms of God, totally trusting in God’s providence. These loving qualities become ours as we mature along that ripening process.
Did you notice that the word fruit is singular? Paul is suggesting that these nine elements—love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control—are one thing, not divisible. In other words we can’t have love without joy, peace, patience, goodness, etc. Faithfulness does not exist without goodness, kindness, gentleness and all the rest. To me he is saying that this is the only way to live in God’s kingdom, but these qualities become ours only through having a deep relationship with God. It is the end product, a gift of our maturing relationship with the Lord, not something we can manufacture or assume on our own. In this way he is extending Jesus’s metaphor of the vine and its branches[John 15:5]. If we are a part of Jesus(or of the mind of Christ) to the extent that we are the branches on his vine, then we are living the fruit of the Spirit—all those qualities are ours, because our relationship is so integrated with Jesus, we are so a part of the Vine.
So Love is the subject of Galatians 5. And what is love but patience with, taking joy in, being at peace with, being good and gentle and kind to, exercising self-control and being faithful?
This is love, God’s love, poured out to us and as it overflows us, back out to the world. Just think of our corner of the universe, the Earth; it is a living system with its interdependent species which have been given every single thing they need. Think of the design of 7,000,000+ species on this planet that thrive on the interconnections. Think of the design of ourselves and the microbes that make our systems work—our own interdependent universe. Of the unique design of each person on this earth. Of the beauty of it all. Of the privilege of having a life here on this wondrous planet. Of the care and attention of God who designed it all.
This is God’s love manifest in every creature and rock and body of water. This is the wondrous love that embraces everyone and everything whether they are aware of the love or not. This is the love in which we are to participate. We all have the yet unrealized potential to share God’s love with everyone we meet—not by telling them about it, but by actually pouring it out to them—by embracing who they are, by being patient with and forgiving them for who they are, by taking joy in their creation, by treating them with kindness, goodness and gentleness, by our self-control and faithfulness, by seeing Jesus’ face in theirs, by treating them like any person made in God’s image. These are the ingredients of love. Our ability to love others like God loves us depends totally on a deep relationship with the Lord, a co-creative, deeply dependent, loving relationship in which we absolutely trust that God will fulfill our needs and everyone else’s, too.
Questions to ponder over the week: On a continuum from no ability to love to a great capacity to love, from 1(no ability) to 10(great capacity) where would you fall on that line? How much of yourself are you willing to turn over to God? How much of your life has been healed? How much of your life has been surrendered?
Check out this video and others on YouTube: “Does the Gospel Serve our Purposes or Do We Serve the Gospel? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wryesgONNXQ or look on YouTube for By the Waters with Pat Adams
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