The entire Bible is a love story. From the creation of the world, through love, for the protection of the Israelites because of love, to the sending of a Saviour out of love, for Jesus sacrifice in love, the Bible is a book that is trying to send us a simple but powerful message. Love God and love each other as He loves us. The greatest commandment.
If you get nothing else out of the Bible and what it means to be a Christian, it needs to be this.
The word “love” gets thrown around so much that in many ways we have lost its meaning. Fortunately the Bible helps us get it back. We’re talking here about “Agape” love which is a divine affection, as opposed to “Phileo” which is more a friendship type of love and “Eros”, which is a romantic, or sensual love.
Love as a fruit of the Spirit is a verb. It’s not a feeling, and much like faith, if only expressed in words, it’s essentially meaningless. Though we like to hear the words “I love you” they mean nothing if not accompanied by loving action. Remember actions speak louder then words. Show you love people with your actions.
I. Love is Sacred
1 Jn 4:7 – 8, 16
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. … So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.”
This simplifies the idea of abiding if we see it as abiding in love because God is love. Love is from God, we don’t have this kind of love if we don’t know God and have his Spirit in us. If we are abiding in love, keeping it always in the forefront of all our interactions and choices, we are abiding in God.
Remember the love of God towards you is a special gift he gives each of us.
So really this message is to let Christians know that if they are not loving, they are not in God, they do not know God, they are not allowing His nature to abide in them, even if they profess belief in Jesus Christ.
II. Love is Selfless
“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”
Eph 3:18 – 19
“That you being rooted in love may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
Paul says this love is difficult to comprehend and surpasses all knowledge. Yes it is. We come out of the womb entirely self absorbed, egocentric, existing to get our needs met. You know what, we don’t change much, we just find ways to make it look like getting our needs met is actually helping someone else. Until we understand this kind of love and allow it to work in our lives, it is impossible to consider others more significant than ourselves.
Perhaps another word for selfless here is humble, to show the difference from sacrificial which is coming next. Besides the sacrifice on the cross, how did Christ love us? By always acting, and teaching that others are more important than ourselves.
Until we know that survival is not our primary purpose in life, our behaviour will be motivated primarily by self-preservation. This selfless, humble love that washes feet, seeks to build others up, is foreign to the human nature and our culture, but by the example of Christ we can practice this kind of love, and through the power of the Holy Spirit we can achieve this kind of love.
So, love is selfless and humble,
III. Love is also Sacrificial
Yes these are related, but here we are specifically talking about behaviour. We can consider others more significant than ourselves, but if we don’t show it in our behaviour, it’s lost.
Eph 5: 25
“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”
Ro 5: 8
“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for a friend.”
Love always requires sacrifice, whether it be giving up our time, interests, or to the far extreme, our lives or at least some organs. If you say you love someone, but have never given up something for them, chances are it’s not real love.
But there is another aspect to this that the church should feel very guilty about. That being loving those people who are hard to love. This may be the biggest sacrifice. It’s easy to love those who are attractive and likeable, who are on our side, but what about our enemies, the poor, the uneducated, the handicapped and mentally ill. How many of these people are in our churches. Why do you think that is? Maybe we need to sacrifice our comfort and our attitudes to make these people feel loved. It’s not easy, and only the Spirit can make it happen. Only agape love can love the unlovely.
IV. Love is Supportive
2 Cor 8: 1 – 8
“We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.  Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace. But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you— see that you excel in this act of grace also. I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine.”
Grace for others is an outcome of your agape love towards people.
James 2: 15 – 16
“If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?”
Love is always alert to the needs of others. Agape love always gives. I said earlier that love without deeds is the same as faith without deeds as James indicates, so the words faith and love could be interchanged in that passage of James. Not only is love alert to needs, it does whatever it can to selflessly and sacrificially meet those real needs.
V. Love is Soothing
1 Cor 4: 21
“What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?”
1 Cor. 13: 4
“Love is patient and kind…”
This is the character of God. Patient and kind. Life is hard and we all need a place where we can lick our wounds, be ourselves, rest, and feel safe and cared for. That is what love is supposed to do. Love makes us feel safe and soothed rather than pressured to perform, or live up to some standard. Love comforts us when we are struggling. Jesus said he will give us rest and peace. We all need to ask ourselves, do the people I love feel soothed by me? Can my loved ones completely let down their guard around me? Are they emotionally safe?
If we all treated each other this way we wouldn’t have to worry about not getting it back from others. We do it with babies, but I will suggest that there is never a time in our lives when we don’t need that kind of soothing, where we can just surrender and be completely exposed in the presence of another person without fear.
In my opinion, the opposite of this love is judgment. When someone says something out of turn, makes a mistake, does something that we get angry about, and we judge them, we are coming with the rod. We need to learn to let people be who they are. Not that they can do whatever they want if it is sinful, but that they can be themselves. Accept people in the middle of their mistakes. God did that with you!
This is not just with our close loved ones by the way. Christians are to display this love to all people including our enemies. You know the best way to “get” someone who hurts you? Love the part of them that hurts so much that they have to ooze that pain out to others. Why not try to sooth that part of them and help them heal as a way to get them to stop, rather than hurting them back? Be a person who others feel soothed by, and seek out those who are able to sooth you when you need it. Ideally that would be everyone in the church.
VI. Love is Sincere
Rom 12: 9
“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.”
1 Pet 1: 22
“Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart.”
In these verses we see the purity of love. Hate evil (or as we learned, worthless or hurtful things), and hold fast to what is good. Purify your soul through obedience, and love from a pure heart. Purify your soul through obedience. Interesting.
Sounds like abiding again to me. We are being told that we can only love in a genuine, earnest way when we allow only goodness into our hearts and minds, and obey the truth (Jesus is the truth). The love that only comes from God as a fruit of the Spirit cannot be manifest when our minds are focused on sin or impure thoughts.
For instance, is it a sincere and pure love if you tell your wife you love her when she goes to bed, then go to the computer and surf porn sites? Are you loving your husband when you speak in a derogatory way about him to your girlfriends? Are you loving Jesus if you are not obeying his words?
VII. Love is Stubborn
1 Cor 13: 7
“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
Psalm 118:1 – 4, 29
“Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever! Let Israel say, “His steadfast love endures forever.” Let the house of Aaron say, “His steadfast love endures forever.” Let those who fear the LORD say, “His steadfast love endures forever.” Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!”
The love that is from God never ends. Could you imagine if it did? Humans would have been obliterated eons ago. God bears with us, he believes in us, he hopes with us, and he endures our constant disobedience and wandering away from him. We are the prodigals.
This love is not dependent on other’s behavior, it is unconditional for the person, but may not be accepting of sinful behavior. Unconditional love means you love the person, but still confront the behavior. That is why God’s love sometimes looks harsh, but the motive is always for our good.
I always shake my head when I hear couples split up because they are not in love anymore. What does that have to do with anything? What does “in love” mean? I think in today’s world it means; “My selfish desires are getting met.” When we fall out of love it means we’re bored with the person. That’s not love, real love cannot be shaken, you cannot stop loving if it is real agape love, the essential nature of this love is that it is endless.
Basically love never gives up on anybody, no matter what they do, no matter what we feel. … And finally,
VIII. Love is Supreme
1 Cor 13:1 – 3
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.”
Matt 22:37 – 38
“And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.”
There it is. Nothing is more important to God than love. But as we have seen, it is not the cultural romantic notion of love, or the feeling of love. It is the sacrificial, humble, persevering love that he has shown throughout the history of humanity. It is the love that confronts and disciplines so that the person being loved will not stray and end up in hell.
Tough love is often looked at as harsh, but in reality it is the strongest form of love because it is given to help pull someone out of their bad behavior. Tough love is Agape love. If you truly love someone you will want them to change bad behavior for their own sake so that they can grow in Christ and live a better life.
Pastor Kris Belfils
Vernon McGee calls Love the “energy of the Spiritual gifts,” because Paul makes it very clear that any gifts without love are useless. It is the first fruit of the Spirit because it is the only one that is absolutely required.
But let’s return to the great and first commandment in Matthew 22 for a minute. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. The second is like it, to love your neighbors.” When God says something is first, it is first. Love is the first or supreme fruit, and loving God is the first or supreme commandment.
He means that without this first foundational commandment, the others are unattainable, and in these first two depend all the Law and the prophets.
First of all notice it says, “the Lord your God,” emphasizing the lordship he has over us and the obedience that is our way to love him. Then it says, “with all your heart,” which is the feeling center of our being, “with all our soul,” which is the seat of our will, and “with all our mind,” the thinking part of us.
This is said in this way to represent the whole of our being. We are to love God with our feelings, our will, and our rational mind, and let me suggest that if even one of these is missing, the others are probably lacking as well. This is especially true of the soul or will. It is only by surrendering our will to the Lord that we experience Him fully.
We can love him with our mind by reading all the great things he has done for us, we can have warm loving feelings toward him because of these things, and may I suggest that this is where many Christians are stuck. The part that is lacking is an experience of Him that makes the thoughts and feelings about Him real.
Often people will only allow God so far into their heart and then no more. Is this you? If so, you have a lot of head knowledge about God and His love, but no heart knowledge, or experience. I can see how this prevents a personal relationship with God. If we did this with people we love in our lives our relationships would be shallow and cold.
Has God forgiven you of much? Do you believe that God exists? Do you love the Lord your God with all your heart, and soul, and mind? Now I know it’s easy to say yes, but if your entire life was on video tape, would anyone be able to tell that this is true?
Sometimes Christians try very hard to love other people, but their love for God is weak, and Paul says this gains us nothing. You can’t make up for not loving God by trying to love others more. You will pay an emotional price for this because you are not tapped into the source. When you drink the juice and eat the bread during communion are you really communing with Him?
You might be saying, that it’s an awfully tall order to love like this, and you would be right. It is not only the first and most important of the spiritual fruit, but it’s also the hardest to do through human will. That is why it is a spiritual fruit and not an inherent human character trait, and why we are commanded to do it so often. It is not in our nature.
The love we require in order to love God, and others like this, comes from God (It’s a bit of a dilemma, I am asked to love God but I can’t unless I get the love from him, which requires me to love him. But I remind you again that loving him is defined by obedience to his commands, something we can in our souls, will ourselves to do with the help of the Holy Spirit), so the other question is, do you have a deep intimate, obedient relationship with the Lord that allows this fruit to be manifest in your life?
Again I will suggest that if you do not love God like the commandment says, and as John tells us, you don’t really know Him, you haven’t really experienced Him, and that is why the church should exist, to help you build that relationship. God wants us to be that church, and I want us to be that church.
Are you growing in Christ and changing, or just going to church, going through the motions, smiling at people, listening to sermons, but never applying what you have heard? Truthfully, what a waste of time then! We should be growing, changing, and becoming more like Christ everyday. We should be seeing areas in our lives that need change and be determined for change to come. How can we reach out to our community when we are too self-observed and unwilling to change? We can’t!
Open your heart to more love, Agape love, in your life. Hunger for the Fruit of the Spirit to be manifested in your life!
This is just small look at the fruit of love. Research in God’s word for yourself what all that fruit looks like, tastes like, and share it with others!
Pastor Kris Belfils
(My blog is usually my own writings, in this case this sermon was based off of Sean Harder’s message: “Fruit of the Spirit – Love”)