DECEMBER 2004 CALENDAR ARTICLE
OUR THEME THIS YEAR:
Serving God with Humility and Love
Love and the Fruit of the Spirit
by Robert Lee
In the fall of last year Jana and I were invited by some acquaintances to pick apples off their trees for our use. I have never tasted anything more delicious. There is something about freshly-picked tree-ripened fruit that surpasses the flavor of what is found in the local grocery store. But spiritual fruit produced by the presence of God in one’s life is sweeter still. It glorifies God and makes the world a better place. This fruit is mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”
The fact that love appears first in this list is an indication of its importance in God’s plan. We use “love” so widely and often frivolously in our culture that it becomes “watered down” and fails to match the power of the Greek word “agape” Paul used in this passage. Paul has in mind the amazing love that God demonstrated for us when he sent his son to die for our sins. “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8). This love cannot be earned, for then it could not truly be considered love. This love is a gift based on the heart of the one who gives it.
Previously, in Romans 5, Paul says that this love is given to those put their faith in Christ: “And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:5). God’s love is placed into the heart of a follower of Christ. According to this verse love is received and then given to others by the power of the Holy Spirit. This means that God deserves the credit for this spiritual attribute being within us and shared with those around us. It is a love beyond what automatically springs from human nature. Jesus even commanded love for one’s enemies (Matthew 5:43-48). Love like this requires divine help. This is provided by God through the work of the Holy Spirit.
The apostle John also connects the work of the Holy Spirit with the presence of love in the lives of God’s people. He writes in 1 John 4:11-13, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has beheld God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.” These verses teach that God initiated the love found in our hearts, and that he has given us his Spirit. The indwelling of the Spirit is a result of our relationship with God as well as an assurance that our relationship with God is genuine. May God’s love bring us peace and joy, and may we express love to others by the working of God’s Spirit in our lives.