Galatians 5:22–23 (NKJV)
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
In listing the various fruits of the Spirit, Paul begins appropriately with love. When Jesus was asked which was the greatest of the commandments, he replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love is the greatest virtue, the virtue which gives to other actions their worth.
Paul writes in 1 Cor 13:
“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:1–3, NKJV)
Paul reminds us that neither remarkable spiritual experiences, nor religious achievements, nor doctrinal exactitude, nor intellectual brilliance, nor even great faith are of any value absent love. Love gives to these actions and experiences their worth; absent love they are absent virtue.
So what does it mean to love? Paul explains:
“Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:4–7, NKJV)
Paul looked to Christ and in the face of Christ beheld love on display - a love that considered not its own interest but gave itself in the interest of others. And it is this love that Paul describes; this love that He holds out for us. The fruit of the Spirit is love – a love for God and love for neighbor.
The Apostle John warned the Church in Ephesus that she had lost her first love, had become cold and indifferent to the Lord and Master whom she claimed to serve. So what of us? Are we driven by love? Consumed by love? Overcome with love for God and for neighbor? If not then we, like the Ephesians, need to remember from whence we have fallen and do the first works. So let us kneel and confess that we are often loveless people.
Our God and Father,
You have loved us with an everlasting love and underneath are the everlasting arms. You have cared for us and cherished us; you have watched over and protected us. You have provided food for our sustenance; clothes for our covering; homes for our shelter; family for our warmth; church for our growth. Yet too often we respond to your love with indifference and coldness. Forgive us, O Lord, and renew within us a right spirit: grant us a passionate love for you and for our neighbor, through Christ our Lord,