God’s fruit of love
Love is the fruit of the Holy Spirit that enables us to value others with the distinguishing characteristic of sacrificial giving for the best interest of another. God places within us the ability to value Him and others, producing the capability to give while expecting nothing in return. True love can be seen at the cross, where Christ willingly sacrificed everything to be in a relationship with us to fulfill the Father’s purpose. The fruit of the Spirit, which is love, promotes God’s work rather than the will of the individual. It is God’s heart in action through us.
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.1 Corinthians 13:4–7 NLT
Can you love without God?
God’s fruit of love perfects our hearts with abilities that are alien to the human condition. We are not simply better versions of what we were. We are now something altogether different because of the Holy Spirit’s work that moves us to Christlikeness.
In Desperate Dependency we assert, “apart from God, the human heart has no capacity for love.” With defensiveness, people often protest, “I don’t believe that!” But left to our own devices, we offer only a counterfeit version laden with self-interest as a means to secure our self-centered pleasures.
We strive to attain value and worth through people, positions, and possessions, believing we can find fulfillment apart from Christ. This illicit love masquerades in forms that may look noble, but the chief concern is how something will impact self. The ideal of giving to another has been replaced by the idea of gaining for oneself.
By pursuing self-interest, we contend with the toxic effects of frustration, hurt, fear, anger, and bitterness. The results of such are fatigue, resentment, depression, anxiety, the disintegration of relationships, and the ever-looming desire for more. These negative consequences perpetuate the unending cycle of spiritual and emotional depletion. You may want to refer to the Fruit Chart for a representation of the fruit of the Spirit and the counterfeits.
So you think this is love?
In and of ourselves, we believe we offer redeeming love. But how often have we witnessed self-empowered love that results in rudeness, neglect, and even abuse? Jesus exposes counterfeit love.
You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect [i.e., mature in God’s love], even as your Father in heaven is perfect [in respect to the expression of His love].Matthew 5:44–48 NLT
No love without God
To love, I must first realize that Jesus Christ loves me and, in turn, receive His love. This enables me to possess love and have the ability to love. Without experiencing the love of Jesus, I have nothing that would inspire me to love Him or anyone else.
Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other.1 John 4:7–11 NLT
God’s agapao love is the standard.
The Bible uses various terms to describe the human condition while attempting to love. C. S. Lewis described these in his classic work, The Four Loves. Basically, éros is the Greek word used for sensual love when we muse, “I love how you make me feel.” Storge describes a familial/family type of love that states, “I love how we make us feel.” Philia describes friendship love that asserts, “I love how I make you feel.” This root is also related to the word philanthropy, “I want to do something for you.”
Only the Greek word agapao embodies the full meaning of the word that describes the redemptive sacrifice on behalf of another while bestowing grace that seeks the best interest of the one valued. This love transcends the human plane and originates from the very heart of God. Agapao may be understood as having no basis in what any other may do or be but is empowered by Him, who gives love to accomplish His purpose. God proclaims agapao love to be the standard by which all love is to be measured. It is only when I love with God’s agapao love that I may say that I truly love.
Loving like Christ, through His agapao love, does not simply mimic the act of what seems loving but exemplifies the sentiments of God’s heart. This is accomplished through personal sacrifice while expressing the will of His good pleasure in seeking to minister redemptive hope to others.
Is this the Spirit’s fruit of love or counterfeit love?
Here’s a case study for you to consider. Is Hannah experiencing love or Jared’s self-centeredness? Would you say that Jared is ministering (seeking another’s best interest), or is he manipulating (seeking his own best interest)?
Valentine’s Day was right around the corner—the time to celebrate love and affection when love is in the air. If you sit at home on February 14th, you are labeled as a loser, destined to become a grumpy old man who dies alone. Jared certainly did not want that inscription on his tombstone!
As he made his rounds at the office, Jared hovered in one cubicle after another.
“Sally, you know you are my favorite secretary of all! Will you go out with me on Valentine’s Day?”
“Tiffany, you look radiant in that black dress. Will you go out with me on Valentine’s Day?”
“Mary Jane, you know how to make the best coffee. Will you go out with me on Valentine’s Day?”
“Hannah, you know you don’t want to be alone on Valentine’s Day. Will you go out with me?”
It’s a date!
Hannah DID know she didn’t want to be alone on Valentine’s Day, so she agreed to Jared’s invitation.
After spending way too much money on a stunning dress and over-priced shoes that she would never wear again, Hannah primped for hours with the goal to WOW Jared. When she met him at the door, she knew she attained her goal.
Jared loved how Hannah made him feel. And later that Valentine’s night, he whispered, “I love you,” to be able to gratify more of his desires. Hannah believed Jared’s words sealed a commitment of care and compassion and responded, “I love you, too.”
Did Jared offer Hannah God’s love or a counterfeit?
The Holy Spirit’s fruit of love
The pursuit of self-centeredness leads to emptiness. If you find yourself experiencing the symptom of emptiness, consider what self-centered means you are employing to counterfeit God’s fruit of love.
We will evidence the fruit of love when we resign from the self-centeredness that culminates in emptiness and then allow the Holy Spirit to enable us to value others. God is love. True love can only come from God. Nothing within ourselves can create that which is from God – His very essence.
To evidence God’s fruit of love, follow this Prayer Pattern.
My Father, help me continue to love others, for I know that love comes from You. I believe that anyone who loves is a child of Yours and knows You. But anyone who does not love does not know You, for You are love.based on 1 John 4:7–8
Here are some journaling questions for you to process as you consider the fruit of the Spirit which is love.
- Do I believe that apart from God, the human heart has no capacity for love?
- What self-centered means have I employed to find love?
- What were the results?
- I know I am evidencing God’s love because . . .
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Excerpts from Desperate Dependency by J. Kirk & Melanie D. Lewis.
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Excerpts from Marriages that Minister by J. Kirk & Melanie D. Lewis. Available from your favorite book retailers, including Amazon and Redemption Press. (As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you.)
Would you like a more in-depth study of Marriages that Minister? Enroll now in our Teachable Marriages that Minister class.
Read more about Marriages that Minister: A Portrait of Christ and His Bride.