“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.”
The first fruit of the Spirit is love. Genuine love is the first evidence that we are walking close to the Holy Spirit. God has such a great love for us, that it cannot help but spill out in a Christian’s life. It is the foundation for the other fruit, for without love, it is close to impossible to produce fruit. It is probably also the most complicated one of them all to clearly define, but we will look at what the Bible has to say about it.
The best place to see what God views love as is 1 Corinthians 13. The beginning of the chapter states that we are nothing without love, or charity. Without love, we become selfish and self-centered. None of our actions matter, for their only purpose is to serve ourselves. If we are to be a light to this world, we must show them the love of God. Next comes an extensive list of what charity is.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7
“Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.”
Now, I won’t go through everything in this list, but as you can see, love is patient and kind. Love puts others ahead of self. It has nothing to do with evil.
One of the final things 1 Corinthians mentions on charity is that it never fails. This is a harder aspect to understand in today’s world. Too often, we see people “fall in love,” get married, and then before you know it, they’re divorced and can’t stand each other. What happened? Did they lose the love they had? According to the Bible, that is impossible. Once you truly love somebody, it never leaves. So in my scenario above, that leaves only two options.
The first is that it wasn’t love to begin with. Many times, people mistake emotions and feelings for love. A person likes how they feel around someone, so they think they love that person, when in fact all they love is what that person gives them (in this case, a happy or excited feeling). Then when they marry and have to live and deal with their spouse in the hard and difficult times, that “love” goes away because the same feelings aren’t there anymore.
The second option is it was love, but they let something come in and hide it, usually in anger or bitterness. There are times when I am angry with my siblings, and I don’t feel any love towards them. Yet, even while in that anger, if something is about to harm them, I’m going to immediately try to protect them. My love for them is still there, even though I don’t feel or see it. There are times when people get angry, bitter, or proud and it blinds their love. Perhaps a married couple will even divorce, but deep down inside they still love each other, even though the other may not realize it.
Another great passage of Scripture that defines love is John 15:13
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
Here, it is clearly laid out. If one is willing to sacrifice his life for another, it is a sure sign of his great love. This is how Jesus Christ showed His tremendous love for us. He went through indescribable torture and a horrible death just so we could join Him in heaven. This is the purest love of all.
So we can see through these Scriptures that love is a selfless act for others. And this is where the world gets confused. They have twisted and turned lust to mean love; yet, they are complete opposites. Lust is fickle and dependent on what makes self feel good. It can never be satisfied. But love is content, strong, and focuses on others.
I will often think of family and friends, and question, “Do I truly love them?” How do I know? Well, I think about one question: what makes me happy around that person? Is it because they make compliments, give me gifts, or even because of how they look? Now, none of those reasons in and of themselves are necessarily bad, but if they are the major or only reasons why you “care” about someone, I would argue that your “love” is closer to lust, as you only enjoy them because of what they give you. With a friendship like that, it won’t take much of a blowout to permanently sear relations. I think of the account of Amnon, David’s son. The Bible says in 2 Samuel 13:1 that he loved his sister, Tamar. Yet we can tell that the love the Bible is talking about here isn’t real love, but lust. His thoughts are consumed of her. He does not care about her at all, but rather about what she can do for him. And when a friend gives him a plan to get away with fulfilling those lusts, he does it without a second thought. And what does the Bible say happened immediately after? “Then Amnon hated her exceedingly”. Within moments, his “love” changed to hatred. Why? Because it wasn’t really love, it was pure lust. Once it was fed and she couldn’t satisfy it, he had no desire of her.
But if making someone else happy makes you happy; if you would rather do what they want to do; if you would rather give them gifts than receive them yourself: then that is an indication you have a real love for that person. You are sacrificing your immediate desires for their greater benefit, the complete opposite of what lust does. There are times my siblings want to do something I don’t really want to do, but because I love them, I do it anyway because I know it makes them happy.
The final verse I want to look at is Proverbs 17:9.
“He that covereth a transgression seeketh love; but he that repeateth a matter separateth very friends.”
This verse states that if you love someone, you won’t hold their mistakes and sins over their head. If I love my siblings, when they do me wrong, I’m not going to keep bringing it up. I’ll let it go, especially if they have asked for forgiveness. Yes, the wrong they committed may have lasting consequences. But bringing it up and reminding them isn’t going to make it any better. My love is going to want to help them through it, not drag it out. Look at the second part of the verse. If I continue to repeat a transgression against me, the Bible says it will separate even the closest of friends. I don’t want to be around someone who constantly brings up the wrong I’ve done, and neither do you.
There are countless other verses I could bring up that give more insight into what real love is, but this is supposed to be a short devotional, not a book. But there’s one thing in common throughout all these verses: sacrificing your desires, comforts, and needs for someone else. And that is how we should love God. By sacrificing what we care about the most on earth, because He alone deserves our greatest love and service. We should not hesitate to sacrifice our comforts so that we can serve Him better. If we do, it is a sign we do not love Him as we should.
That is why love is the first Fruit of the Spirit. All the others are a form of self-sacrifice, which we cannot act in without love. Learn to love God, and others. It is the only way you will truly love life.