I realize that in starting a series on the fruit of the Spirit, some of these topics can appear pretty broad and nebulous in scope. Case in point, our first topic today: love. There will be times in this series in which you will be challenged to think about the attribute (i.e. the fruit) in a way that you haven’t perhaps thought of before. My goal is to always bring it back to Jesus: how did He show love, in what instances was love on display within His life? Being Jesus is the perfect embodiment of the fruit of the Spirit, not only did He show love perfectly, He was in a continual state of doing it. Even in His humanness, His divine nature was on full display.
So Jesus’ demonstrations of love are going to look different than what the world says love is. I’m even convicted to say that it is different than what many Christians would think. Often we are more influenced by what the culture says love, joy, peace, etc look like than what the actual word of God says. So a disclaimer here and throughout this series: be challenged to think outside the box each of these weeks because Jesus lived outside of the box.
One more sidetone: some weeks there might be a key story which to me, really shows one certain attribute displayed in a way in which the whole blog can be based. Other weeks, the verses and stories might overlap and I might pick and choose a bit more, if that makes sense. This week, being that love is a broad topic, there are a lot of examples within the Gospel to pull from. So we’ll be hopping around a bit.
I titled this week “Compelled By Love” because I believe Jesus’ ministry was an outward reflection of an inward desire. To think of Christ, we have to realize all that He did was based out of love. His interactions with His disciples. His meeting with Nicodemus late at night (“For God so loved the world…). His many miracles, including healings, feeding thousands, and raising the dead back to life. All of it love. And even on the cross, He displays a love that many find hard to identify with. He forgives those who have murdered Him. He extends grace to those who do not deserve it.
As I’ve said already, the fruit of the Spirit must be viewed through the lens of Christ. Let’s dig and examine His love.
1. Jesus’ love never seeks anything in return
For if you love those who love you, what reward will you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? Matthew 5:46
In the context of Matthew 5, Jesus is talking about loving our enemies. It’s a hard passage for those hearing Him because there are very literal enemies to those in the audience, namely tax collectors and Romans. The Jews knew that there were certain people that would always bring opposition and be a “thorn in the side” of their existence. This is precisely why Jesus puts His finger on this relationship and it still bears truth to us today.
Who do you have in your life that is an enemy? And who could do or would do nothing for you in return if you showed them love? That is the hard question Jesus poses to us. We think a reward is in order; sort sort of blessing or some great heavenly prize in heaven if we do good to someone. And that’s just to those we already love. But here’s the reality, God examines our hearts and is calling us to show love without strings attached.
2. Jesus’ love goes after the unlovable
When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that He was eating with sinners and tax collectors, they asked His disciples, “Why does He eat with tax collectors and sinners?” Mark 2:16
In His day, Jesus was known to keep company with people of ill repute. This definitely raised eyebrows and caused many to question His motives. The religious leaders were those most opposed and vocal about Jesus; bringing into question His reputation over the sinners He hung out with. There was certainly a hierarchy and ranking process to whom was deemed valuable and worthwhile. Jesus’ love compelled Him to go after those at the bottom of the pyramid.
What this means for us can be varied but each one of us needs to consider who in our lives do the rest of society avoid and condemn. Go after them. That person at your work who has a strong personality and negative attitude that no one wants to be around. Start up a conversation with them. That homeless person you pass on the way to work each day. Find our their story. That kid in school who gets picked on relentlessly and is highly unpopular. Show them worth with the love of Christ.
3. Jesus’ love is quick to forgive
When Jesus stood up, He said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, Lord,” she answered. “Neither do I condemn you,” said Jesus. “Go, and from now on do not sin any more.” John 8:10,11
Probably the hardest part about loving like Jesus is modeling forgiveness like He does. In John 8, we have the account of the woman caught in adultery. Her accusers bring her before Jesus, not only wanting to condemn her but also to trap Him. As so often happens, the script is flipped and everyone must take into account their own sin. Jesus’ words “The one without sin among you should be the first to throw a stone at her,” are words that cut to the heart. Everyone realizes they are not without sin; they all deserve their own punishment.
We forgive because we have been forgiven ourselves. We forgive much because we have been forgiven of much. And we forgive repeatedly because we must be forgiven repeatedly. This point alone could be its own blog; the concept of forgiveness is a major tenet of our faith. But the takeaway for you and I is simply to say if we are in Christ, we must show His love by forgiving one another. I know that’s a hard pill to swallow because forgiveness means letting go of something; a deep pain or hurt inflicted by someone else. But Jesus forgave up to the point of His death and we must be willing to do the same.
If I can sum up this first fruit of the Spirit in a way that ties all of this together, it would be to say Jesus’ love is unlike any other in this world. His love goes beyond walls. His love goes beyond hurt. His love makes no sense in a world in which people deem other people unlovable or undeserving of love. It is a love that we rarely see in this life because apart from Christ, no one rightly knows how to love. He is love and He has shown us the perfect way to love.
What we do with all of this is to start making applications and inroads in our own lives. I don’t have to tell you who God is laying on your heart today as you respond to this blog. You already know; there’s most likely a face and a name that comes into your head and you must reckon with the question: Can I love this person today as Jesus calls me to? Before you answer, a great first step is to pray. From there, allow God to melt your heart and be willing to be stretched in the process. I am here if you need to talk and am willing to pray with you. Let’s keep digging in each week, allowing the Spirit to bear His fruit in our lives.
But love your enemies, do what is good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Luke 6:35