Love: the First Fruit of the Spirit

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The law is not against such things.”

Galatians 5:22-23

This week I’m starting a post series about the fruit of the Spirit that we find in Galatians 5:22-23–the first of which is love.

But, first of all, what is a “fruit” of the Spirit? I don’t know if you’ve ever heard the children’s song Fruit of the Spirit, but that’s what usually comes to mind when I hear the phrase. The fruit of the Spirit is not a coconut, cherry, watermelon, apple, peach, or even a pomegranate! What it is, however, is a list of nine attributes that should be evident in the life of a Spirit-led believer. If we are followers of Christ and living according to His Word, we should see these nine things in our lives as a result.

I believe love is the first on this list for a reason–it’s incredibly important! Here are four reasons why following and obeying the Spirit of God should–and must–result in love.

1. Love is the Greatest Commandment and the Fulfillment of the Law

Jesus Himself said that the greatest commandment is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind,” and that the second greatest is to “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39). Jesus gives love priority over every other commandment, which means it must be important! He also says this because love is the fulfillment of the law, as the apostle Paul talks about in Romans 13:

“Do not owe anyone anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments:
do not commit adultery;
do not murder;
do not steal;
do not covet;
and whatever other commandment–are all summed up by this: Love your neighbor as yourself. Love does no wrong to a neighbor. Love, therefore, is the fulfillment of the law.” (vs. 8-10)

It is inevitable that we will end up loving Him and loving our neighbors if we sincerely desire to obey Him.

2. God is Love (and We are His Ambassadors)

“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” (1 John 4:7-8).

As Christians, we should have a strong desire to know God for Who He is, and the Bible tells us that He is love. It says we don’t really know Him if we don’t love. To know is to love.

The Bible also tells us (in 2 Corinthians 5:20) that we are ambassadors for Christ: we are His representatives here on earth. If we are ambassadors for Love itself, shouldn’t our lives convey that love to the world around us?

3. They Will Know Us By Our Love

“By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).

Jesus commands us to love people because that’s how the world will know that we are different. Sure, a nonbeliever can love, but not necessarily in the same way that Christians are called to love. We are called to be humble servants who love unconditionally, selflessly, and without any expectations of love in return. That is how they will know we belong to Him. We know we belong to Him because He has given us the Holy Spirit, but our love for one another is how the world will know.

4. Without Love, We Are Nothing

1 Corinthians 13, also known as the love chapter, gives us an excellent reason to love: anything done apart from love is meaningless.

“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.” (vs. 1-2).

We may like to think that being led by the Spirit means speaking in tongues, prophesying, and moving mountains (and I personally believe that the Spirit can and does do those things through us), but notice what Paul is saying here: even if we do all those great things, what God really wants is for us to love. He is more pleased with a believer who does small things out of love than those who speak prophecies and move mountains without it. We can have all the faith possible and work really hard for Him, but as for KING & COUNTRY’s song, “The Proof of Your Love,” says:

If I sing but don’t have love
I waste my breath with every song
I bring an empty voice
A hollow noise

The Message translation puts it this way: “So no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.”

From these verses, we can conclude…

Any believer who has the Spirit of God in them and walks according to His ways should bear the fruit of love. We are commanded to love, we are ambassadors for a God who is love, the world will know we are His by our love, and God will be pleased with the motive of love like no other.

So what does this mean?

I used to volunteer on Friday mornings, which meant getting up early and interacting with people before I really wanted to. Most weeks, I found that I was dragging myself out of bed and forcing myself to go. I did my best to avoid people. After a while, I started to think: Why am I even doing this? And God convicted me with these words: Dread is not love.

We should not approach our work with dread. We should do everything we do for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).

This is an area I’m currently working to improve in my own life. I’ve been trying to intentionally do things out of a love for God and not for any other reason–I clean my room because I love God, I feed my pets because I love God, I read my science textbook when I really don’t want to because I love God. I’ve started to become more aware of what it means to love God, love people, and do things with the motive of love.

I believe that God changes us from the inside out, so if you desire to grow in this area, I would suggest that you start with your thoughts. Start with your small, everyday tasks. “We cannot all do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” (~Mother Theresa)

This quiet motive of love will eventually grow and spill over into our every task and interaction–demonstrating to the world that we are, indeed, His.

If you claim to be a Spirit-led believer, in what ways are you bearing the fruit of love today?

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I hope y’all will join me next week as we take a look at the second fruit: joy. God bless, and have a great week!

Always His,