The Fruit of the Spirit: Love

The Fruit of the Spirit: Love

The Fruit of the Spirit is Love – What love looks like.

Yes, the fruit of the Spirit is love. Pure and simple, love is the supreme fruit. All those qualities listed in Galatians 5:22-23… joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control… are all aspects of the one unifying fruit, love. Those virtues are all inside of love, like seeds in a piece of fruit. Love is the fruit that develops in a life that is united with the Vine, Jesus. No Vine, no fruit. No fruit, no love. No love, no aspects of love.

Fruit is meant to be useful, to be used, to be taken and eaten and enjoyed. And so is love. Love is meant to be useful, to be fleshed out, applied in daily life. That is how the fruit of love is digested. Love by its very nature is useful.

What does life look like when love is not applied, not partaken of, not put to good use? Can you even have any kind of life without love, agape love? According to 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, a life without love is empty even when it looks full. A paraphrasing of those verses could look like this:

  • Even if I could speak every language, including the language of the heavenly angels, and was a golden-tongued orator able to sway a huge crowd, if I didn’t speak with love, my words would be hollow, reduced to the significance of background noise or distant echoes.
  • Even if I was known as a spiritual giant, with a profound understanding of God’s hidden secrets, or if I possessed unending supernatural knowledge, or was a faith healer or miracle worker, were I unable to love, I would be a waste of talent, my gifts would be meaningless, and I would be a spiritual failure.
  • Even if I gave all my possessions to the poor, spent all my time feeding the hungry, and even sacrificed my life to serve the needy, if I wasn’t motivated by love, my good deeds would be empty of purpose and genuine conviction, and it would all be personally meaningless.
  • Even if I ambitiously raced to the top of my profession, was admired by the world, and the owner of all the creaturely comforts, full of power, wealth and influence, were I not full of love, I would be unsatisfied, an unfulfilled low achiever, and ultimately an unsuccessful person.

So what are the fundamentals of love? What does love look like when it is put to good use, when it is fleshed out? Apart from 1 Corinthians 13, there are two other love chapters in the Epistles that provide a glimpse of fleshed-out love. Colossians 3 puts it something like this:

Chosen and loved by God to live a life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you. Robe yourself in the virtues of God, clothed in heartfelt compassion as you seek to understand others, showing kindness and humility, with gentleness and patience. Be even-tempered and content with second place. Be quick to forgive an offense, and forgive as quickly and completely as our Master Jesus has forgiven you. Bear with each other, tolerating each other’s weaknesses. Love is supreme, so let love flow through each of these virtues. For whatever else you put on, wear love, the hallmark of maturity. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it. And let your heart always be guided by the peace of Christ, keeping you in step with each other, cultivating a life of thankfulness.

Love looks like that! Romans 12 also describes the outworking of love this way:

Let the inner movement of your heart always be to love one another. Love from the center of who you are… Don’t fake it, don’t play the role of an actor wearing a mask. Be devoted to tenderly loving others as members of your new family. In love let your feelings of deep devotion for each other come to full expression, and regard others as more important than yourself. Try to outdo yourselves in respect and honor for each other, outdoing each other in mutual esteem. Eagerly welcome people into your home, being creative in your hospitality. Celebrate when others celebrate, laughing when others are happy. But also weep when they weep, sharing their tears of pain or misery. Live happily together in a state of harmony, and be as mindful of the other’s worth as you are your own. Don’t love with a lofty mindset, thinking you are too important to be a servant. Don’t be smug, or even think for a moment that you know it all. Don’t congratulate yourself on your wisdom. Don’t pride yourself on being better than you really are. Never hold a grudge or try to get even, but plan your life around the noblest way to benefit others. As much as possible, and to the utmost of your ability, be at peace with each other. Do your best to live as everybody’s friend.

These love chapters provide a clear impression of what fruitful love looks like and how it is to be practiced. St. Paul has also given us a powerful picture of how God loves each of us… God our chief Lover, the original Lover. For the truth is, we cannot love like this on our own steam. It is impossible for us to consistently practice the fundamentals of love through sheer will power or good intentions. God has shown His love for us first, and His love then empowers us to love each other. God has first loved us, Jesus has shown us in the gospels how it is to be fleshed out, and His Holy Spirit enables us to grow the fruit of love until it becomes second nature.  The one eternal fruit is love.

[The scriptures noted include various versions and translations of that particular passage, as well as my own paraphrasing].