Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Fruit of the Spirit - Love

More basic than the outward manifestation of the Spirit is the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22,23), the character traits that God is trying to work in our lives. We are told that if we have all the gifts and do great things but do not have love, we are nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). Therefore, it is appropriate to start a discussion of the fruit of the Spirit with this basic one: love.

Love is the sum of what God requires, the root from which true Christian character grows (Matthew 22:36-40; Romans 13:8-10; Galatians 5:13,14). But if this is true, why bother with any other commandments? Why not just command us to love God and  others and leave it at that. But the problem is that we have all sorts of distorted ideas of what love is. Therefore, we need the specifics in order to really understand what genuine love is. But there is also the danger of simply having a legalistic checklist while lacking the basic inner motivation. to make this more than mindless duties.

Now the basic example of love in Scripture is the love of God in giving His Son to save us (1 John 4:7-21; John 3:14-18; Romans 5:6-8) and the love of the Son in carrying this out (John 15:12-15; 13:1; 10:11-18). The main idea here is not primarily of an experience or a sentimental emotion but a deliberate decision to put the welfare of others before our own. Love, therefore, is a principled thing that involves responsibility and commitment, and not just some passing good feeling ( 1 John 3:14-16; Ephesians 5:25-33; Titus 2:3-5). Now there is nothing wrong with powerful experiences and overwhelming emotions. But we cannot live there. Real love is more workaday and involves how we treat one another in the mundane things of life. For the real test is how we behave when the emotional peak is gone and we must trust God to produce in us the right behavior when we do not really feel like it (2 Corinthians 3:18; Galatians 5:16; Philippians 2:13). 

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