Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…
In verse 25, Paul adds If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. The way we handle ourselves should be in line with these attributes of the Holy Spirit. The first of these is love.
By my count, the Bible has the word ‘love’ translated into it 503* times. That’s a big deal! When Paul was writing his letter to the Galatians, I think there is a reason he chose to list love as the first quality of walking with the Spirit. In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he said, So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13). If you look at Mark 12:29-31, you will see Jesus said there was no greater command than to love our neighbors as ourselves (and the first command to love our Lord God with everything we have). There is definitely no shortage of instruction to love in the Bible. So, what is Biblical love? How can we show it?
Probably one of the most popular verses regarding love is found in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Most of us have heard this verse in church, seen it all over social media, recited it at weddings, and seen or heard it so many other places. But, how great of an understanding do we truly have of it? We know we should love like this, as Paul explains, but do we?
It’s not easy to show love at all times. Heck, it’s not easy to like some people, so can you love them when you don’t like them? Yes you can. Love isn’t something you feel. Love is a choice you make. Look again at 1 Corinthians 13. Paul never once says, love is a feeling or anything related to emotion. Love IS patience, IS kindness, IS not envious or boastful, IS not arrogance or rudeness, and you see where I’m going with this. What Paul is clearly saying is that love is action. Matthew 5:46 is a humbling verse. Jesus tells us, “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” Even the worst of sinners not walking with God love the ones who love them. So shouldn’t we be reflections of God’s love?
A lot of people will hear this and say, but how can I love someone who annoys me, who I disagree with, who is awful to me? Again, love isn’t about feelings and we are commanded to love even our enemies (Matthew 5:43-45). However, we shouldn’t simply be acting in a loving way out of obligation. When the Holy Spirit is in us, we have the gift of giving love. Romans 5:5 …because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. I think a lot of this has to do with choosing to love. If you pray for God to give you the Holy Spirit, and pray for the Holy Spirit to guide you in love, you will start feeling a change. Be sure you’re receptive to that and it can change how you interact with even the toughest of people.
In my experience, when I prayed for help in showing love, I made a conscious choice to change the way I interact with others and to always show love. Do I slip up? Absolutely! But, I am also quick to ask for forgiveness when I act in a less than desireable way. And that’s truly important. We are all imperfect humans walking together, so asking for forgiveness when we mess up is crucial. Not only that, it’s a great way to show love! What usually keeps you from apologizing? I know with me, it’s pride. Arrogance. How difficult it is to swallow our pride. Back to Corinthians 13 – love is not arrogant. I may sound like a broken record, but prayer solves so many issues if we just commit to it.
In my own life, when I’ve gone through a time where I’m struggling with something, and I’m just too busy worrying or pondering over it, I tend to stray from prayer. My focus is more on complaining than talking with God. I’ve recently taken a new course with this. Every time I feel that urge to complain or dwell on something, I pray for the Holy Spirit to guide me through it; to guide my actions and push me to do what’s right in God’s eyes. Even if my kids are fighting, yet again, and one of them pushed the other off the couch, I can take a moment BEFORE reacting and practice that ‘prayer pause’. I’ve heard it said by all sorts of speakers and influential people that we should practice the pause. I like to call this the prayer pause. When I need to react to a situation, such as my nutty kids, I take a moment to pray for guidance in my reaction and to react in a loving way. (Side note: My kids are nuts, but I love them!)
This isn’t easy, is it? When something is bothering us, we want to give in to that urge to react instantly. It definitely takes time and practice for it to become a habit. But it truly does become a habit. And, of course, plan to slip up sometimes because it will happen. I honestly yelled, like YELLED, at my kids the other day saying “GOD WANTS US TO LOVE EACH OTHER!!!” Wow. Embarrassing mom moment for sure. I don’t think I was showing them how to love in that moment. But in the moments afterward, when I humbled myself, hugged them, and apologized, I was showing them love. Asking for forgiveness when you’ve done wrong is a great way to show love. And this is true for anyone in your life.
I will close with a quote from one of my favorite Christian influencers, Alistair Begg. “Sincere love is not as a result of emotional surges – it’s a result of obedience to the truth.”
Ready for a challenge? I challenge you this week to practice the prayer pause, focusing on loving everyone you interact with.
- When you find yourself wanting to react on impulse to a situation, pause and pray before you do.
- Try to look at people differently. Understand that each person has struggles of their own.
- Ask yourself if the person you are having difficulty with has been saved. If they haven’t been, ask yourself, Are my actions and attitudes going to show Christ in me or give them a distorted view of Christ?
I would love if you would come back and share your experiences! Thank you for reading and God bless.
Love in Christ,
*Count Acquired using English Standard Version Bible
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