Devotion for the Week...
Welcome back to our devotion series on the fruit of the Spirit. This week we'll look at love, which is the first of the nine character traits that are listed as being the fruit of the Spirit. If you missed it, click to read last week's introduction to the fruit of the Spirit.
Galatians 5:22,23 says, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law."
The character traits that the Spirit can cause to grow in us are ones that are not quite natural to us humans. Though we certainly do love people, we tend to love only certain people, the ones that we find lovable in some way. But that's not God's love. God's love depends on nothing. It just is...constant and given equally to everyone. In fact, "God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).
God's love is so big and so complete that He sent Jesus to die for us when we were in total rebellion against Him. We were each firmly seated on the throne in our own hearts, quite happily serving ourselves and completely ignoring God. Some of us were simply indifferent to God, others were openly hostile, but either way we were not lovable at all. Even then, He loved us enough to see past that rebellion to the relationship that would be possible if He made the way.
That is the kind of love the Spirit can bring to our lives. The kind of love that sees past faults and difficult personalities. The kind of love that continues even in the face of insult or indifference. The kind of love that, quite frankly, we can't produce on our own.
Jesus asked, "If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?" (Matthew 5:46). In other words, anyone, even a tax collector (the lowest of the low), is capable of loving the lovable and the people who love them back. It takes a special kind of person, one who is walking with the Spirit, to love everyone.
I will be the first to admit that I often react with less-than-loving responses when faced with someone who is unlovable in some way. I am nowhere near able to get it right all the time, and it's those natural not-loving responses that prove I need the Spirit to grow God's kind of love in me.
And how does this love grow in us? Galatians 5, verse 16 says, "So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh." As I said last week, walking by the Spirit means listening when the Spirit prompts us to do (or not do) something, and then obeying that prompt. It's an ongoing learning process, a process of letting go of our own selfish desires and embracing what God wants for us.
Jesus said in John 15:5, "I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." Remaining in Jesus means cultivating a relationship with Him. First of all, it means accepting Him as Savior, then it means spending time reading the Bible to get to know Him, it means spending time thinking about what we've read and learning to apply it to our lives and it means learning to be sensitive to the Spirit.
Apart from a relationship with Jesus, showing true, unconditional love to everyone is impossible. But with Him, with His Spirit guiding us and teaching us, we can learn to love as He loves.