I just want through go through the Fruit of the Spirit in the order they are listed in Scripture. My guess is that God put them in that order for a purpose.
First, let’s just remember the basic verses, Galatians 5:22, 23:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (ESV)
My belief is that the other eight Fruit of the Spirit all hinge on the first one, love. And I really like the last phrase of verse 23: “against such things there is no law.” There may be exceptions, but I am not aware of any culture that despises any of these attributes: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. They may be defined in slightly different ways, but these seem to be universal virtues.
Let’s look at what exactly that love is. How can it be defined?
The love which the Holy Spirit manifests in believers is agape. This love is not a feeling, but a choice. It is the choice to be kind, to sacrifice, to consider another’s needs greater than one’s own (Philippians 2:3). Agape is used in all of the “hard” love verses in the New Testament.
But it is important to remember that God’s love is not a sappy, sentimental love such as we often hear portrayed. God loves because that is His nature and the expression of His being. He loves the unlovable and the unlovely (us!), not because we deserve to be loved, but because it is His nature to love us, and He must be true to His nature and character.
I’m glad I don’t have to depend on that “sappy, sentimental love” that many want to hinge things on. Like me, maybe you’ve learned that often times our feelings inaccurately reflect reality. I love my husband, but am I all googly-eyed and sentimental every time I wash, iron, hang, fold and put away his clothes? No. Well, maybe that was true the first couple weeks of marriage, but it doesn’t take long for that to get old. Does that mean I’m not serving him in love then? Of course not! Have I, on occasion, been sentimental doing this mundane task? The answer is a resounding, “YES!” I’ve almost lost him on three occasions that I’m aware of: a car accident, a motorcycle accident, and a very severe illness. Each time he’s come home from the hospital after nearly leaving this Earth, it’s an emotional thing to do that first load of laundry. Why? Because I GET to continue to serve him in love, something that was nearly taken away from me.
Now, on a slightly different track, a broader track, let’s consider those outside of our families. 1 John 3:11 tells us, “For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.” (ESV)
An example would be the Parable of the Good Samaritan, found in Luke 10:25-37.
And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” (ESV)
The Samaritan man showed love, at great cost and sacrifice to himself, to someone of another culture, a culture that the Samaritan culture said he should despise and hate.
This makes me consider a lot of the stuff I’m seeing posted on Facebook. I love Facebook; I can easily see pictures and videos of my grandchildren and other, and I can keep up with their lives a bit. That can be a difficult thing to do, seeing as how I live half way around the world from them. And some of what I see on Facebook bothers me, and bothers me a lot. So many Christians posting so many memes blasting other cultures and other religions. Hey, even politicians. I’ve done it. Shouldn’t have done it. How is that showing love? Yes, some of it is funny at first glance, but at whose expense? What if the tables were turned and it was directed at you? It’s emotionally exhausting being part of a minority where you live. I know, I’m living like that right now. About half the year we’re the only white people in our neighborhood.
It all comes down to this, do I choose to love? Not only family, not only my native culture, not only my immediate neighbors, but everyone I come across?