Over the last seven weeks I have been writing about the fruit of the Spirit. To me Paul is describing all the facets of love that we can aspire to in our lives, as we follow Jesus. These gifts from the Holy Spirit take us beyond human love which is very choosy about who is worthy of our love. We are fickle and exclusive and withhold love whenever we feel like it. Love for all other human beings—who were created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27)– does not come easily to us, but with God’s help and healing of our pain and suffering, we can revel in that love for ourselves and for others. On the human side we want to exclude and to judge and to fear and be angry at whoever has displeased us for whatever reason. We see through the glass darkly when we look at all human beings, whether we know them or not.
For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known (1 Corinthians 13:12)
God’s love is the gift that God gives to each of us, but it is more than about God’s love for me or you. We need to take that love and give it out to the world, to everyone we meet. How we are to do that lies in God’s purpose for each of us. Our purpose is in His hands and He will teach us how to love by highlighting our pain and suffering for us and, then, healing us and transforming what we express to others. Step by step, issue by issue, layer by layer, God’s love will transform us from the egotistically-minded people of this world with all its faults into people of the kingdom of God who can love and forgive and have mercy on and do justice for all people.
The first aspect of love is joy. We experience joy as we come to live as we were designed to live, expressing or best nature in the world. One of the best creators of joy in our lives is gratitude for all that God has given us and taught us. Another lies in the healing of any pain and suffering we have had to bear. And it is often in that healing that we find our purpose, helping others who are suffering like we did. Doing what is natural to us, innate in us also brings joy. Being connected to God, in His presence, also brings us joy. As does the beauty of this world.
Then comes peace. If we love and honor God as the center of our lives, we are given the gift of peace in all circumstances, in life’s challenges and in death, in Covid-19 and in celebration, in sickness and in health, in every area of our lives. Peace rests in us when we come to love God and put Him first in our lives. How many of us initially were rattled at first by Covid and its effect on our lives and yet were able to relax and see what this new phase in our lives would mean to us? How many of us used the gift of time Covid gave us to appreciate our lives and to see where our lives do not reflect our deepest selves?
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).
Patience is next. Love is the ability to welcome whatever comes to us without the demands of our own timing or any other need. We are content to just be with whoever or whatever God sends us right now.
How are we to best express love in this world? With goodness, kindness, faithfulness gentleness and self-control. These last five fruit of the Spirit describe our interactions with God and our fellow human beings. We are to leave behind any judgment or fear or anger. We are to be gentle, good and kind. We are to be understanding of the person before us. We get to know him or her, so that we can see what in their lives caused them to be the way they are. And then, we offer gently God’s wisdom about what would heal them. It is interesting to me that these very qualities are the ones that make it easy for another to hear what we say. We’re not preaching at them. We’re not judging them for what they do. We are offering understanding and love, embrace and acceptance, acknowledging that God loves and forgives them no matter what they have done. For aren’t we all sinners? We all fail to express God’s love and forgiveness in this world. So, who are we to judge them, when we are all to blame?
Another word about gentleness, humility and self-control. These are all ways of saying that love is the ultimate law of God. It’s never been about what we could give to another—we’re just expressing God’s love. It’s not about us going to heaven for what we do; it’s about what we can contribute to the lives of God’s other children while we’re here on earth. It’s not about elevating ourselves; it’s about lowering ourselves to express our common humanity before the God who created us. Love is the flowering of God’s spirit in us.
All these qualities or aspects of love bring the fullness of what love is to people everywhere. It is our job to express them in the world in all that we do.
Questions to ponder over the week: Am I expressing God’s love in the world, to all that I meet, or am I still only loving those I like? What would it take in my journey with Jesus to give up my judgments, anger, and fear of others? What intention do I need to set to invite the Holy Spirit to transform these negative qualities in me? Am I determined to love like God loves?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who love others as God has loved us. May we freely give God’s love out to the world. May we rest in His arms and express His love for everyone.
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