Fruits of the Spirit - Love
“I love you!” I said before hanging up the phone. Today I got the chance to talk to my mom after work, but now that I think of it, I say the phrase a lot throughout the day. Sometimes it is my grandma after I check in with her while other times, it is after a long vulnerable moment of encouragement with my best friend. The phrase encompasses so much more than my feelings for a special person in my life. To me, “I love you” radiates a cocktail of “be safe,” “you mean so much to me,” and “I appreciate you in my life.”
The type of love we have for mamas is different from our love for our best friends or our favorite football teams. In the English language, culturally, the word gets thrown around a lot because it is often the only word we know to use. Some languages that I have studied like Spanish and French have multiple words for the term “love,” switching up its meaning with context or vocal tone. When we try to define love, we often use examples from our own lives and experiences because the abstractness of love makes it difficult to pin down its actual meaning, our language lacking in defining what we can feel and know so well without a doubt.
The word “love” appears in the New International Version of the Bible 551 times. The New Testament presents us with four different concepts of love—phileo love, storge love, eros love, and agape love. Phileo love is the type of love we know as brotherly love or affection toward a friend or neighbor you’ve known your whole life. Storge love is the type of love seen between one’s family, particularly the love between a mother or father and their child. Eros is the type of love that refers to a kind of conditional love involving passion. Lastly, agape love, the type of love we will be digging into more today, flows from the heart of God.
When I think of my first interaction with agape love, I am reminded of a time in children’s church when we all had to memorize the following verse.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
Though I memorized the verse years ago, the power between the words remains. God set the foundation of how He expects us to love others, and ourselves, through His example of loving us by giving us Jesus--His son, our savior.
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.” 1 John 4:7
To know God is to love like God and that knowledge of loving others through our daily lives is the foundation of a Christian life. 1 Corinthians 13 shows us what that looks like. We see that love is patient, kind, without envy or boast. We learn that love is not of dishonor, not self-seeking, not quick to anger, and keeps no records of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rather, rejoices in truth, protects, trusts, hopes, and always preserves.
The last part of 1 Corinthians 13 reminds us that choosing love is not always the easier route. When I think of persevering, I think of choosing to push forward through a time of difficulty despite my thoughts, feelings, and the world’s expectations of me. Love is not a feeling; love is a choice that requires conscious and careful intention.
The world has made “love” a multi-billion-dollar industry because it knows how much we as humans inherently need love. We were made in the image of God, and if we agree, as 1 John 4:7 says, that God is love, and we were made in the image of God, that we then were made with the love in mind. Our bodies were created to love and to be loved.
Faith, Hope and Love
The world sometimes will make it seem like love is something we have to earn, but God reminds us over and over in the Word that love is not something that is earned. Love is a gift. You don’t check a box, finish a to-do list, or have to get any approval from anyone to receive God’s love. You don’t have to look a certain type of way, speak a certain type of language, or have a certain type of educational or socioeconomic status. You only have to be willing to receive it.
1 Corinthians 13:13 reminds us of how important love is in our walk in faith. It states, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
Before we pour our love into the people around us, we must first know and understand how God loves us. Remember that love is one of our fruits of the spirit that Galatians 5:22 tells us about. “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.”
Nurturing this fruit in our lives requires spending more time in God’s Word throughout and, sometimes, even a little courage because the world doesn’t always welcome this type of unconditional love. Love is a gift, given to you from your Creator to share with the world. May you nurture this fruit of the Spirit and let it flourish for the world to see.