“But the fruit of the Spirit is LOVE, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” ~ Galatians 5:22-23
The first of the fruits of the Spirit, as mentioned above, is love. There is enough information in the Bible about love to write posts upon posts on the various aspects of it, but here I am summing it up as two separate things: loving your friends (other believers) and loving your enemies. Now, most people would assume that I would be using the Love Chapter, 1 Corinthians 13, as the base of this discussion, but everybody does that, so I’m going to use Romans 12:9-21 instead. The book I used to help me in my study was Matthew Henry’s Commentary, which I will be quoting a few times and referring to as MHC.
Love is a huge part of being a Christian ~ in fact, it is the law that we live by. It sums up all of our duties to one another, which is why there is so much in the Bible that talks about it. It is immensely important and vital to a Jesus Freak’s life.
The first thing that Paul reminds the Romans in this sections of his letter to them is that love must be sincere. John tells us this in 1 John 3:18: “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” You can tell people you love them all you want but they’ll know for sure whether you mean it by your actions.
In our passage in Romans, Paul tells us first how we are to love our friends and our fellow believers. First of all, it must be an affectionate love, as mentioned in verse 10: “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.” The devotion that it talks about refers to us being ready and inclined to love, genuinely and freely and kindly. The love that we have for our fellow believers is to be like the love parents have for their children: tender, natural, unforced, and unrestrained. Express your love to your fellow believers courteously through both words and action. But not only is it our duty to love others ~ “to love one another” reminds us that it’s also THEIR duty to love US.
The second ingredient is respectful love, also in verse 10: “Honor one another above yourselves.” Instead of fighting for superiority, believers should but their brothers ahead of themselves. (For another reference, look up Philippians 2:3.) MHC explains to us why: “There is this good reason for it, because, if we know our own hearts, we know more evil by ourselves than we do by anyone else in the world.” We must take notice of the gifts and talents of others, value and praise them for it, and we should be pleased when they are praised for them. But not only should we do that, but we should strive to perform our own duties ~ and not consider others so much better than ourselves that we consider ourselves worthless and become lazy (verse 11).
Third in the mixture is liberal love, verse 13: “Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” This takes us past the words and into the action. Being kind and respectful is all good and well, but as a believer it’s also your duty to love by helping with their physical needs (James 2:15-16, 1 John 3:17). Sympathize with them in their hardships as if you are suffering with them (a good example of this is the Philippians, who did this for Paul, as he said in Philippians 4:14-18). Galatians 6:10 tells us that we should be ready to help anyone in need, but particularly our brother believers, and we must value the believers and remember what they have done for others and for Christ (Proverbs 10:7).
Hospitality is a big part of the liberal love we are to display. Those who have houses should be ready to entertain people who do good or those who are forced to look for shelter. And “as there is occasion, we must welcome strangers, for we know not the heart of a stranger” (MHC). This is how we PURSUE hospitality, rather than just FOLLOW it. Following it is good, but we should seek our ways to show hospitality to others, “for by doing so some people have entertained angels without knowing it” (Hebrews 13:2). Two of these people are Abraham (Genesis 18:1) and Lot (Genesis 19:1).
Next we must show a sympathetic love. Verse 15 tells us to “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn,” which may be one of the more popular verses in the Bible. There is a mutual love and fellow-feeling among believers, and there should be, because we are one body with many parts (1 Corinthians 12:26). True love makes us interested in others’ welfare and teaches us to make their highs and lows our own. It’s very difficult sometimes, but we must be truly glad that others have the success and comfort that we do not, without jealousy or envy. I know that this is one thing I have not been especially good at, and I imagine I’m not the only one.
Now we come to united love: “Live in harmony with one another” (verse 16). Unity is stressed again and again in the Bible, particularly the New Testament, and as I was taught in school, if something is repeated a lot, you know it’s important. This is where we get to pretend we’re the Three Musketeers (or three hundred): All for one and one for all. We mustn’t thwart, clash with, or contradict one another. We must love our brothers as ourselves (this is where the Golden Rule makes its appearance) and stay unified through the bond of peace, which is mentioned in Philippians 2:2, 3:15, and 1 Corinthians 10:1.
Behold now condescending love. “Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position,” verse 16 also tells us. Jesus was an awesome example for this when he washed his disciples’ feet in John 13:5. He did this to show us kindness to one another. Paul also did this (1 Corinthians 9:19), and I don’t know what better examples you can find for Christlikeness than Paul and Jesus (who is the best example of all for Christlikeness, seeing as he is, in fact, Christ). King David showed us not to be ambitious or have worldly desires, but to humble: he advanced to high ranks, but never let it get to his head (Psalm 131:1-2) ~ we should be reconciled to whatever place God puts us in.
In addition, never be afraid or ashamed to associate with low-ranking people if they fear God ~ a believer is a believer, rich or homeless. “True love values grace in rags as well as in scarlet. A jewel is a jewel, though it lie in the dirt” (MHC). James 2:1-13 warns us against this kind of favoritism. But we should also not be conceited, or, as MHC put it: “be not confident in the sufficiency of your own wisdom, so as to despise others, or think you have no need of them, nor be shy of communicating what you have to others.” So no being Sherlock, unfortunately (though one COULD attempt to reconcile Sherlock for his use of a homeless network, as well as having John and Scotland Yard to help him).
Lastly, verse 18 tells us of engaging love or peaceful love: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Be harmless and inoffensive to the best of your ability ~ don’t give people reasons to quarrel with you, and don’t look for reasons to quarrel with them. Preserve the peace as much as possible (Hebrews 12:14, Ephesians 4:3, Psalm 120:7).
Now Paul tells us about loving our enemies. There are only two simple parts to this. The first is do them no hurt: verse 17, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil.” Matthew 5:43-48 tells us to love our enemies, and Romans 5:10 reminds us that Christ died for us while we were enemies of Him. Verse 19 tells us not to take revenge, but to leave it up to God. Matthew 5:38-40 and Ephesians 4:26-27 continue this thought. Ecclesiastes 10:4 tells us to stay calm when others are angry, and Deuteronomy 32:35 says to let God judge them. How much more do you need to know about revenge?
And part two? You guessed it: do good to them. Verse 14 says: “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.” MHC says, “Speak well of them. If there be anything in them that is commendable and praiseworthy, take notice of it, and mention it to their honor.” We are told in this to wish them well and to pray for their wellbeing ~ Jesus himself did this in Luke 23:34. We must also do good to them by supplying their physical needs, a command we find in verse 20. When David did this with Saul, he won a new friend (1 Samuel 26:21). If that doesn’t happen, at least it will make their hatred towards you inexcusable, and it will hasten God’s vengeance upon them ~ though this is not to be our intent when doing good; it is instead simply an encouragement.
Do not allow evil to “overcome you” (verse 21) ~ disturb your peace, destroy your life, crush your spirit, or make you seek revenge. Verse 9 tells us that not only should we not DO evil, but we should ABHOR it, hate sin deeply, and not only desire to do good, but CLING to it. Have a sincere love of doing it, and constantly strive to do it.
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable ~ if anything is excellent or praiseworthy ~ think about such things.” ~ Philippians 4:8