The fruit of the Spirit : Love

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Christ has liberated us to be free. Stand firm then and don’t submit again to a yoke of slavery. Take note! I, Paul, tell you that if you get yourselves circumcised, Christ will not benefit you at all. Again I testify to every man who gets himself circumcised that he is obligated to keep the entire law. You who are trying to be justified by the law are alienated from Christ; you have fallen from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision accomplishes anything; what matters is faith working through love.                 You were running well. Who prevented you from obeying the truth?  This persuasion did not come from the One who called you. A little yeast leavens the whole lump of dough.  I have confidence in the Lord you will not accept any other view. But whoever it is that is confusing you will pay the penalty.  Now brothers, if I still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished.  I wish those who are disturbing you might also get themselves castrated! For you were called to be free, brothers; only don’t use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but serve one another through love.  For the entire law is fulfilled in one statement: Love your neighbor as yourself. But if you bite and devour one another, watch out, or you will be consumed by one another. I say then, walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit desires what is against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you don’t do what you want.  But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar. I tell you about these things in advance—as I told you before—that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, we must also follow the Spirit.  We must not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. (Galatians 5 HCSB)

If I asked you about the fruit that you are bearing, what could you say about it? Are others happy to be around you? If you were a tree, what kind of fruit would you be producing?

When we see a physical body, the first sign of life is the breath. The first sign of life for a Christian is his prayer life. This breathing helps us. However, the sign of liveliness in a body is not the breathing, but the movement and the actions. A living body is one that is active. Similarly, the sign of liveliness in a Christian is not prayer. It is in fact, what the relationship with God produces in our lives! That is, the fruit that we bear. If you want to find a good church, do not look at the size of the church, do not look at the various activities, do not choose because of the style of worship and lastly do not choose because of the confession of faith. Nevertheless, you need to choose, based on the quality of the fruit produced by its community. For Paul, the first of this fruit is Love. 

LOVE

What Paul calls the fruit of the Spirit; is not the fruit of our own efforts or doing. It is not when we try to be good, to be gentle, to be respectful and so on. It is not the same as having done a good work and expecting some great results. No, this is definitely not, what Paul is talking about. What we are talking about here is the fruit that results from a relationship, a growing relationship with God. It is certainly not about flowers! We are all happy when we receive some beautiful flowers! Who is not? We love flowers, because they attract attention, flowers are beautiful. We are not called to carry around flowers so people can marvel while looking at us (at our flowers actually), but we are called to produce fruit. Moreover, what is characteristic of this fruit is that we offer it to others. We do not eat the fruit that we produce, just as the tree does not consume its own fruit but offer it. Paul explains the product of our relationship with God in terms of fruit. More specifically, there is only one fruit, but which has several aspects. In addition, the scripture invites us to offer this fruit freely and generously to others. Let us see a part of Scripture that correctly illustrates this.

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vineyard keeper. Every branch in Me that does not produce fruit He removes, and He prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in Me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me. I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me.  If anyone does not remain in Me, he is thrown aside like a branch and he withers. They gather them, throw them into the fire, and they are burned.  If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you.  My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be My disciples. As the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you. Remain in My love.  If you keep My commands you will remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commands and remain in His love. I have spoken these things to you so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.  This is My command: Love one another as I have loved you.  No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:1-13)

The most common descriptions that we have about love today in the society is as follows:

  • “Love is to kiss someone on the lips,”
  • “Love is when someone meets someone”,
  • “Love is to meet someone, be happy together and spend the rest of our life with that person”,
  • “Love? It comes from the heart and from the mind. The heart is concerned, just as the head!”
  • “Love is someone who loves someone else, and most of the time they feel like butterflies in their bellies!”
  • “Love is to have sex in bed, this is love”
  • “Love is not for kids, it’s for teenagers, it’s disgusting”
  • “Love is to take time to learn about someone whom we care for”
  • “Love is when I see my lover and my heart beats heavily!”

Here is how Paul talks about love:

If I speak human or angelic languages but do not have love, I am a sounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so that I can move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I donate all my goods to feed the poor, and if I give my body in order to boast but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy, is not boastful, is not conceited, does not act improperly, is not selfish, is not provoked, and does not keep a record of wrongs. Love finds no joy in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth.  It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. Love never ends. (1 Corinthians 13:1-7)

In today’s society, there is a great misconception about love. Of course, love is Omnipresent. Nevertheless, we do not stop and take time to ask and really think about the true meaning of Love.

The first confusion the world makes, and so do many of us, is to mix LOVE and SEX. We tend to think that these are interchangeable. This does not imply that the two are separate, but it is not right to reduce love down to sex. When we look around us, it is clear that the physical appearance plays an important role. We know somehow that the physical attraction is seldom the start of a type of love that the Greeks call EROS love. Physical attraction is so current and we do see examples of this every day. Boys and girls are first attracted to each other physically.

That is how it all starts. It starts even at the very young age! We can find that in schools, at the work place, in social gatherings, in fact everywhere where boys and girls meet! If we think over our past, we will surely remember the time where we find that boy handsome, or that girl very beautiful and hence get physically attracted to her or him. This is how we start to be interested to the opposite sex. This game grows beyond the initial physical attraction. Because this leads many times to the need to seduce the other and have sexual intercourse. We call this type of love, the “Eros” love, because it has for basis, the sexual desires that stem from the physical attraction. This is the type of “love” that unfortunately is found amongst youngsters today. We know for a fact that many go to parties, pubs, nightclubs and other socializing places to enjoy themselves, and this is not limited to unbelievers, we find many Christians going to these places. This is where they fell in love, but in reality, they have felt a strong physical attraction towards each other. Dating starts there and many times does not last, because, the initial attraction was simply based on physical desires. Once they start to know each other (after having consumed the object of their desire), it is not abnormal to see that weeks or months later, they are falling out of love. However, at the next visit out to socializing, they are once again in love. Eros is this kind of love. Sex is the end-desire in most of these cases.

Nevertheless, this type of “desire” based love is not limited ONLY to sex. Many people desire objects as well. It can be a sports car, the latest shoes, the latest smart phone and the list is long. Therefore, this is where we can see the difference and the problem. For this type of love does not lead to a lasting relationship, but it leads to an acquisition. We want something and we work hard to get it. The Eros love reduces the object of our desires to a mere thing to obtain, and then we simply put it aside after having used it to our satisfaction. Once we obtain it, our hard desire slowly dies until we are attracted to something or someone else. Just look at what is happening in the world of smartphones. When the iPhone was launched, many wanted to have it though they all had their mobile phones and MP3 players, but this one, they had to have it. Now, years later and as the sixth edition of the iPhone is yet to be launched, it seems like everyone has purchased all the editions of the iPhone. As the latest model comes out, even with the slightest improvement, the craze is to have the latest one. It goes the same way with loads of materials and gadgets. People just desire it and they will not stop until they have satisfied their desire.

There is another type of love, which we can find in society. It is different from the Eros love. This one is the romantic type of Love. The type of love that we can see in movies or read in novels. This one does not have desires as foundation. This one ignites and grows with time by a sense of affinity and complicity. So this one the Greeks call the Filo Love. This type of love, we usually find amongst people who share many things. Therefore, this type of love creates a relationship, but the relationship will last as long as we still have the same, common interests. When this changes, then gradually this love will phase out. Therefore, we can say that this type of love depends on feelings. This is a second misconception of love. These two types of love is present in our society and many of us fell victim to them. Therefore, in a way, Eros love attracts me to someone else, and the Filo love creates that affinity or bond to the other one. Still this relationship does not stand for long. The desires and the feeling do not last and the relationship is abandoned. How many people have you met that just get along greatly? There are hundreds of them, but they do not all end up being together until death separates them. In today’s world, young adults just move in together because they are in love. They do stay for some time, but most of them finally end-up in separation because the feeling has died. When asked why they are no longer together, they simply say that they no longer love each other, or that they have just become good friends. Unfortunately, in other cases, the separations is difficult and hurtful and the two end up as enemies. We all know people who match these descriptions, let us just not fool ourselves. This was some kind of love, but not yet the best one.

So is there another type of love that is not based on either desires and feeling?

Another type of love that is not based on my desires, but on the other one’s desires. A love that is not based on my personal interest but which finds its essence in the search to please the other person’s interest?

Indeed, this kind of love exists!  This Scripture describes this kind of love. However, before we look further into this ideal love, we must understand that God, our creator is not against the other type of love. For he created us with personal desires, with a sexuality, for couples celebrate their love through their sexuality. The bible is not against the “Filo” type of love either. Because we are created to live in society. Hence, we are connected to each other; we help each other and live together. However, we cannot build a relationship with these types of love. Friendship and brotherly love have significant importance in the bible.

Ultimately, with these values we cannot build everlasting relationships. The foundation of everything, as per the bible, is the Agape Love! Jesus uses or has this love. The same love that Paul uses to describe the fruit of the spirit called love. We can give out freely to everyone this love. Unfortunately, this type of love never comes out when we ask people what they understand or how they would describe love.

However, this is the love described in the bible. This is a radically different type of love that we are offered today by society. This is a love that we can taste and experiment, but it is a love that takes time to build and to experience. This love has several flavors. The Agape love is a relationship love. This love makes the others come first. With this love, we take every decision by firstly thinking about others, and not about ourselves. When we read 1 Corinthians 13, this is what Paul is talking about. Paul is here talking to a community of Christian brothers, who are being told to love each other and to care for each other, the type of love that is not based on self, but on the benefit of others. The issue with this community is that everyone was searching for their own interest. Paul talks to them about several spiritual issues.

However, there is something more important than just seeking spiritual knowledge. Paul is opening their eyes on the various gifts of the Spirit. Nevertheless, he then addresses them and mentions that all these are nothing without Love. However, not any kind of Love. It is the Agape love.

Therefore, we can use that basis and say that everything that we do today, if we do it without love, without Agape love, it is useless and void of life. This love is patient, not jealous, does not like injustice, forgives everything, etc.

This love is one that exists in relationship to others, and seeks to build the other and not destroy. It is a universal love that extends even to our enemy. This love endures everything, even persecutions, rejections and suffering. This love is only possible if we are of God. For this is the love of God. This love was in action when God so loved the world that he gave his only son! This love animated Jesus when he chose to die for us while we were estranged and still full of our sinful nature. This love makes you die for others.

Without God though, we are unable to love really. Nevertheless, he gives us his Agape love freely, the Holy Spirit then allows this love to grow in us, and hence allows us to love as God loves. Therefore, there is a fundamental relationship between God’s love for us, our love for God and lastly our love for others. The three are not apart. Love God and love your neighbor!

John says, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” (1 John 3:16)

Jesus and Paul preached about this Agape love. This love frees the other. This love comes from God through Jesus Christ who transforms us. So let us seek this love, let us seek to bear this fruit that we can offer to others. The fruit that the Spirit of God brings through us. The first fruit of the spirit: Love.

When God Loves:

The ultimate expression of Love that we can experience is the love that we receive from God.  Jesus, the son of God, is sent to earth so that we can be punished for all the sins that we have done. Sin’s penalty is death, and God in his majesty has to apply the penalty. But somehow someone decided to lay down his life so that in exchange we could escape from this death penalty.

Who will do that for you? Can you imagine anyone who is not guilty walking down and asking to be executed for faults or crimes he never committed, in the place of a convicted criminal? We have never seen this happen. But yet, Jesus decided to do it.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

This is what John 3:16 is about, it’s not just a nice verse that we learn and feel good about. This verse is telling how much God loves us, how much Jesus thought that we are worthy of his love, this love that took him to the ultimate sacrifice. Jesus was ready to be separated from God, feel his wrath, because He loved us. This love described in this verse has a great cost. Jesus the sinless would be put to death and sacrificed for sins, HIM who had known no sins. The best part is that we do not even deserve this. He died and we did not even know him. He chose to die for people who don’t even know him or love him yet, so that, once we know him and love him, we could be saved.

How can someone love like that? In our understanding or way to do things, we would die for people who have shown they love us, care for us and so on, but not for strangers. Don’t underestimate this love, or take it lightly. Paul sums this up clearly in this passage:

“While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8)

Study tools to understand love :

Question 1:

“If I speak the languages of men and of angels, but do not have love, I am a sounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so that I can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I donate all my goods to feed the poor, and if I give my body to be burned, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”

How important is “love” to our value as a human being?

 Question 2:

 “Love is patient; love is kind.”

How does “love” treat other people?

Question 3:

 “This is how we have come to know love: He laid down His life for us. We should also lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has this world’s goods and sees his brother in need but closes his eyes to his need—how can God’s love reside in him? Little children, we must not love with word or speech, but with truth and action.” 1 John 3:16-18

How is the love of God to be reflected in the love Christians have for each other? What is wrong with ignoring the obvious needs of others?

 Question 4:

“Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent His One and Only Son into the world so that we might live through Him.  Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.  Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another.  No one has ever seen God. If we love one another, God remains in us and His love is perfected in us.

  • Who is the Source of love?
  • How is love revealed to us?
  • What should we do as a result?
  • How does love change or improve us?

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