One way of looking at the fruit of the Sprit is to view it in clusters. Pastor Graham says the first cluster is love, joy and peace; three characteristics which speak of our “Godward relationship.” Maybe if we took First Corinthians 3: 13 literally, we would infer that the greatest of these is love.
Even though the first cluster is important, all nine characteristics of our Christian lives
[these three and six more that we will discuss]
should be the result of our abiding in Christ, our allowing the Holy Spirit to do His work in us, through us.
Today we focus on the fruit of love.
Pastor Graham describes Christian love like this: “When we reflect on the meaning of love, we see that it is to the heart what the summer is to the farmer’s year. It brings to harvest all the loveliest flowers of the soul. Indeed it is the loveliest flower in the garden of God’s grace” [The Holy Spirit, 247].
Indeed, if a Christian cannot show the fruit of love in his or her life, the relationship that one has with God is worth little. “If love does not characterize our lives, they are empty” .
But what is love other than some vague concept that can include many disparate actions. Let’s explore Christian love further.
It comes from the Greek word agape, a word that is found all over the Greek New Testament. When Jesus said love your enemies, He used the word agape, when Jesus said we were to love one another in His statement to John, He used the word agape. When Jesus said “thou shalt love thy neighbor”, He said agape. According to the New Bible Dictionary, agape is “the highest and noblest form of love.”
Since we are to love as God does, believers should be able to demonstrate agape love. There is a catch; this form of love does not come from our own willpower, or some earthly inspirational experience. It comes from God to us through the Holy Spirit. Agape love is an active love. It is not just words. It is not enough to tell someone that you love them; you have to show them through something you do for them.
Agape love is not selfish at all. Graham cites Bishop Stephen Neill who defines agape as “a steady direction of the will toward another’s lasting good.” Agape love is all about the needs of another, not selfish needs. Human love is largely selfish in nature. Agape is a self-giving, sacrificial type of love.
One way to understand agape better is to use three contrasts between human love and God’s love [agape]. I paraphrase from Pastor Graham. Human love says that I own something that someone else wants. Human love thinks I wish to be richer by receiving a gift which someone else could give me. Human love means I want to have the feeling and desire of love which comes and goes according to my emotions.
Contrasting, agape is about wishing to give to others because we love them, gaining riches is not a goal because we desire to make others rich by giving all that we have. The act of love is not a feeling; it is more a matter of will because it is a choice to give or not to give, simple as that. It is a choice that comes from a deep-seated need to try to reflect the love of God.
When Jesus said “love one another” this is not a suggestion; it is a command. It includes wives, husbands, children, extended family members, neighbors and even people we have never met on the other side of the world. It includes people who are not easy to love. It includes people who are not like us, so unlike us that they may be hard to love. It even includes people who have harmed us and have brought sorrow to us. It includes people who are lonely, people who are destitute, people who are struggling to live life.
It is a hard command but look at the life of Jesus. He was moved by compassion for people in his world from the greatest monarch to the lowliest beggar. His love knew no boundary. Jesus embraced all kinds of people, no matter their circumstances.
What is our best model of love? All Christians should know. It is God’s love for us as He sent His Son to live among us, knowing He would die an earthly death for our sins. God loved us so much that He sent us His only Son.
Again, where do we get the impetus to show this love? First of all, we must yield our wills to Jesus Christ. When we make Him our Master, we can begin to experience the love of God and we begin to understand that we need to pass that love on to others. It is not to be hoarded; it is meant to be shared, passed on. As we experience Godly love for others, the passing it on is the production of fruit.
Graham describes this phenomenon in these words: “Nothing but the Spirit of God working in our lives can produce such fruit [agape], and it will be evident in our public as well as private lives.”
Think about these words.
Think about them seriously and then ask yourself about the fruit of love in your life.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” [John 13: 34].