1. Fruit of Spirit Series: Love

23 04 2016

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.  –Galatians 5: 22-23

Topic #1 of the Fruits of the Spirit deals with love.  Honestly, I feel like the word Love is used in so many different contexts.  I’m not going to make a comment on the over-use of the word love, but I will try to clearly be specific on the context that I am talking about.  The kind of love that I am talking about today is love that we share between and for people, not the kind of love we have for a cheeseburger, or video games.  But the kind of love that we have for others that we share our lives with, and that we run into each day.

One of the themes in scripture that I have studied the most in discipleship training deals with how the disciple of Jesus is identified through.  I notice several things from scripture and I’d like to share some characteristics of that love:

Characteristics of the Love of God

  1.  God demonstrated love first.   

1 John 4:9-10 says:  “This is how God showed his love among us:  He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  This is love:  not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”  God loved us first.  Before anything else, before anyone else, he loved us first.  That’s it.  There’s no ifs ands or buts about it.  The thing is, we’ve done nothing to merit or earn God’s love.  At all.  Period.  We have nothing to brag about, as being special or unique, and so God loves us.  He loves us because of who he is.  It’s not in his nature to hate anyone, because he is all love.

2.  God’s love does not change based on my emotions. 

This is a theme throughout scripture.  Before we even talk about Jesus and who Jesus is and the person of Jesus, we have to look at the overarching themes and stories of love.

One of my favorite stories in all of scripture is the story found in Hosea.  If you want to look at a love story, look at Hosea.  It’s a little overwhelming, particularly when you examine it in the light of God’s love for us, which it, from my understanding, is a very accurate reflection of God’s love for us, and was intended to be an allegory.  Very shortly and briefly, the story of Hosea is this:  Hosea is called to be a prophet, and he is instructed, by God, to marry a prostitute.  He is obedient and marries Hagar.  They’ve been together for a bit, and she runs back to her old life, and becomes pregnant.  She does that several times, and each time, Hosea goes back and takes her back.

If I am honest, my commitment to God isn’t as steady as it could be.  But instead, it rocks and rolls similarly to the ocean tides.  Sometimes, it’s really rocky and windy due to a storm, and other times, it’s just cycling over and over again.  But you know what?  God’s commitment to me does not waver, it does not increase or decrease based on my response to God’s love.  It’s not about how committed I am to God, because really, I don’t have a choice.  God has already committed himself to me, and he shows this in Hosea 2:19:  “I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion.”

This is regardless of my response.  Regardless of when I run or how I run.  It’s regardless of how I feel.  From that, I have determined that my love for others, it must be regardless of how I feel.  It must be regardless of whether my feelings are hurt or not, it must be regardless of anything.  My ultimate goal has to be to love people regardless of their response.  Sometimes, people can’t accept love, because of all of the ways they’ve been hurt in the past or how they preconceive that love is….but the thing is, I must love on God’s definition.  And God’s definition is not like humanly definition.  God’s definition is already about commitment, regardless of what I do.  I’ve done nothing to deserve or earn it, but it is my joy to enjoy it, as a free gift.  And that should also be our task, to show others that same type of love, regardless of who they are, their response or what they have done to us.

 

Therefore…..

  1.  If God is love, then we are to love others too.

It’s easier to hate people.  It honestly is.  It’s easy for me to write someone off instead of getting to know them.  It’s easier for me to arbitrarily just decide that I don’t like someone or that I don’t want to share my life with someone, simply because of some random thing that I have decided makes a person unworthy of love.  If I am honest, humanly honest, I have written off people in the past, because I decided that one aspect of them didn’t appeal to me.  I decided that they were not good enough or something.  Thankfully, I have learned the errors of my ways, and am maturing enough to finally realize that everyone has value and is worthy of being loved.  But it takes something for you to be able to recognize that it’s not up to us to decide who gets to be loved.  It’s not up to us to decide who is worthy, because all people are loved.  And therefore, all people are worthy of being loved.  Here’s some convicting words:  “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.  Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”  -1 John 4:7-8.

That thought always sobers me.  When we refuse to love someone, or we decide that someone is not worthy of being loved, we are not of God, and we are not a believer.  That means, in previous moments where I have decided that I don’t want to love others, it means that I haven’t been of God.  And anytime that I used my own reasons to justify why I am not going to love others, then I am not being who I am supposed to be, and I am not loving like I am supposed to.  I am not being obedient like I am supposed to be, and I am not showing love like I am commanded to.

The fact is, the failure to love marks us as nothing but ignorant of the commandments and the person of God.  When I allow politics, my personal beliefs, preferences, or what have you, to discolor my viewpoint of a person, or to prevent me from loving a person, or prevent me from making a person feel like they are loved, then I am in the wrong.  I am in the entire wrong mind frame, and I am in the wrong.

It’s hard to accept that.  It’s hard to be honest with myself and it’s hard for me to call myself out on my wrongness, particularly when I think that I have a good enough of an excuse to justify my hatred or dis-love of others.  I think the reason that the writer of 1 John was so severe, was because he recognizes the weight of love, and the impact and power of love.  See, God endured Calvary for the weight of love.  And so, we should also reflect that weight.  We should also be mindful of the saving power of love, because it is love that allowed us to be redeemed and ransomed.

2.  God’s love makes us sincere in love.

It’s easy to say that we love someone, but it’s much harder to actually do it.  It’s easy to do when the people we love, love us back.  But when they don’t meet our “standards?”  When they don’t meet our expectations?  But what if they hurt us?  What if they upset us?  What if they do something wrong?

The problem with that assumption, is that we are assuming that love has something to do with us and our emotional state of being.  But that is a lie.  See, love should be shown regardless of what we feel or our personal state of being.

How can you do that?  Honestly, it’s very difficult.  But that’s part of sanctification (the process of growing closer with God), because the more that I am close to God, the more that I can and am able to become more like God.  And the more I become like God, the more that I can love people like God does.  Scripture says:  “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.” -1 Peter 1:22

We can only love, like God does, when we have been growing, and when we know a thing or two about God’s love.  Then, we can obey the truth, and have sincere love for others.  Sincerity is something that is rare in our world today, because it’s hard to take people at anything other than face value, or to imagine that they don’t have ulterior motives.  The people who follow God and have a relationship with God, should love sincerely, without reserve.  When we fail to do so, then we don’t accurately reflect the love of God as it truly is and reflect the experience of God’s love for us.


But, the question remains:  What is sincere love?

This is a very stereotypical answer, but let’s look at 1 Corinthians 13.  “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. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.  For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.  And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

To answer that, very quickly, I want to pull out three more additional points about love:

  • If I am spiritual at all, but I do not love, then my works are worth nothing, and I am not reflecting the grace and love that has ransomed me.
  • Love is a very tall order. It moves beyond my own mere human definition, and into something else, something motivated by more than just selfish desires.
  • As I grow, my love will mature and change. And if it doesn’t, then I don’t know love at all.

 

Conclusions

The first thing that I’ve realized through studying these passages, is that I have a lot of ways to grow in love.  But, thank God, how I have grown!  It’s always enlightening and encouraging to see where you have grown and matured!  It’s always a burst of gratitude when I see where God has moved and changed me, how he has changed me.

And if love of God changes me and allows me to mature, how also, could my love for others help to grow others?  If love from God helps me to grow, then it could also help others to grow, and how I could be a beacon of hope and love for others, especially those who need it.

I don’t get to decide and define who God loves, and I don’t get to decide and define who is worthy of my love, and I don’t get to limit love at all.

And the cool thing about love?  “Against such, there is no law.”

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2 06 2016
Fruits of the Spirit: Joy | deafragamuffin

[…] the Fruits of the Spirit Series.  You can find the Introduction here and the first entry on love here. […]

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