“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” [Gal 5:22-3] Fruit is the product of a plant or tree at the end of a long season of growth from spring to summer or fall. And so it is with the fruit of the Spirit—it is the product in us of a long season of growth into a deep relationship with God. It is not something we attain or that we take on, it is given to us by the Holy Spirit as we attain a certain closeness with God, as we have been transformed from the inside out by the Holy Spirit. We could describe that closeness as loving God with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind and all our strength, the first of Jesus’ Two Great Commandments. We can see the proof of that love in how we love ourselves, and in how we treat our neighbors, all of them.
Love is the lingua franca of the kingdom of God, the currency if you will, the method by which everything is done. It is also the sum total of the other fruits, for you can’t have love without peace, or love without joy, or without patience and the rest—kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
The other great passage on love is in 1 Corinthians 13:1-13, but we have reduced this one to a passage read at weddings, reduced it to prescription for a happy marriage. Hear these prophetic words out of the context of a wedding ceremony:
“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
“If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
“If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”
Without love we cannot claim to be Christ’s church, his people. We are nothing. Without love we convict ourselves of violating every commandment. We are letter-of-the-law people, not Gospel people. Jesus came to teach us how to love and how to live.
Love penetrates to the depths of our being. So if we think we are loving on the outside to others, and not in our thoughts and hearts, we are mistaken: it is not something we can clothe ourselves with. Love must reside in our emotions, in our minds, in our hearts and in our souls. We cannot fake love. We cannot even bring ourselves to love; only God can do that. And that means that we are turning over every portion of ourselves 100% to God in love, so that he can do the transformative work on us. Only then are we his. Only then can we love.
Love is the end-product of a life lived in the mind of Christ. It is the sure sign that we are faithful and true to our God, that we have learned to live life as Jesus taught us and as he modeled it. Let us not be tricked by the watered-down Christianity whose sum total is belief in God and Jesus Christ that is lived in the world today. It will not transform anyone’s life. It certainly will not transform the world.
We are meant to be a light unto the world,[Matthew 5:14] a place of comfort to the poor and needy. We are meant to be salt,[Matthew 5:13] that which brings out the flavor of life. If you are a Christian today, Christ is calling you to that truer, deeper life with him. He wants you for his very own. Will you give yourself wholly over to him that he might mold you into the person he created you to be? Or will you continue to sit on the sidelines of life, content with mere belief? Will you join in the game, the oh-so-serious game on the field of life, where it matters that we have integrity and caring and love most of all?
If our lives are shining with love, others will catch the joy and peace, the kindness and gentleness, the goodness, faithfulness and self-control. They will experience your patience. They will feel affirmed by you. They will feel invited by you to be the same. They will love your exuberance. They will be amazed that there is no ego in you. They will know that you do not belong to this world. They will want what you have.
There will be no need to preach or to bully people into loving God. I read a story recently about how a whole people was converted to Christianity. A group of Christian men and women moved into a community and just showed up whenever something was needed. They worked alongside the natives, they helped wherever they could. They didn’t talk about themselves or what they believed or anything. But they pitched in to the work of the community all the time. After a while the people there began to ask them about themselves, wondered about all this helpfulness. Soon the whole community was converted.
When our whole lives shine, we don’t need to say a word. When love flows out of us into the world, people pay attention.
Questions to ponder over the week: Do I have love in my heart for God, for myself, for my neighbor? Do I act with integrity in this world—is what I say and do congruent with my inner thoughts/attitudes? If the answer to these questions is “no,” what would I have to bring before the Lord to heal? What attitude is the first that has to go? Or How important is it to me to learn how to love? Am I willing to allow God to teach me how, healing me along the way?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who share his love and forgiveness everywhere we go. May we respond to others, no matter who they are, with love. May love be the watchword of our lives until such a time as we live in love, in the arms of God.
I am asking again for your stories for my book on the Exodus story. The topic this time is purpose: Has God made clear to you what your purpose is? How did he reveal it to you? What is your purpose, at least as you understand it today? I won’t use your real name in the book. Send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
News from By the Waters:
All five of the videos about the Exodus story are up on YouTube. Here are the url’s to access them:
Part I: www.youtube.com/watch?v=TKfouN0PNH0
Part II: www.youtube.com/watch?v=QyvRsnqYrdg
Part IIIa: www.youtube.com/watch?v=YZU32Y09UN8
Part IIIb: www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHqKay89kjE
Part IV: www.youtube.com/watch?v=84z7KF_uv7Q
And a one: God’s Invitation, www.youtube.com/watch?v=IOkp_-wDKFo
My book, “Thy Kingdom Come!”, is up on Amazon in both paperback and kindle versions. Look under Patricia Said Adams.