The first fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23 is love.
Most people will tell you that love is “more than a feeling.” True love is a commitment, especially committing to another’s good. But love isn’t only a commitment. Love indeed involves the affections. If you ask a man if he loves his wife and he says “yes” but the thought of her doesn’t bring a sense of happiness as well, then you would naturally wonder what is wrong in the relationship.
If you consider passages such as 1 Corinthians 13, love could be best defined in this way: A commitment to happily seek the best for another.
Love is listed first among the fruit of the Spirit, because in the Bible’s story love takes a preeminent role. Indeed, the Bible is a book of love, an adventure romance about a valiant warrior (Jesus) pursing and winning back his wayward love (the church). We are also told that God is love and that all true love flows from God.
And then, in Matthew 22, when Jesus is asked about the greatest command in the Law, his answer is that we love God supremely and love others deeply.
Love is to be the blood pumping through the veins of God’s people.
It’s easy for us to love others when we feel loved by them or when they benefit us in some way. But the Bible doesn’t tell us to only love those who love us. We also are to love all that we encounter (granted this will be a different type of love than we have for spouse or child or parent, but still it’s a seeking of their best as we are able), and we are to even love our enemies.
This is where things get hard and it takes a supernatural strength within. This is where the Spirit works on our hearts so that our love will expand. God, after all, loved us when we were his enemies, giving us Jesus so that sinful rebels might become beloved sons and daughters (Romans 5).
That is one of our great hopes–that people who in the moment count us as their enemies might instead be brothers and sisters in eternity, relishing the joy of Christ.
So, let us seek to love well and let us pray that God would grow this fruit in our lives.
Next time, we’ll consider the spiritual fruit of joy.