The Fruit of Love
Last month we started looking at the Fruit of the Spirit. This month’s study focuses on the Fruit of Love. Love is mentioned 551 times in the Bible.
If any of us listen to the radio, we may have heard the song What’s love got to do with it? It was a song that was released in 1984 by Tina Turner. It is a pop song that talks about love and how it is overrated in everyday life. It talks about love being a feeling that we can lose.
Yet this is not the love that is spoken of within the Bible. In fact, love has everything to do with it.
In your own words, how would you describe love?
Let us begin with prayer: Gracious Heavenly Father, you are the God of love. Throughout all human history you have gifted your people with the promise of love and forgiveness. Because you are a God who keeps promises, and you have called us by your Son through the Holy Spirit, we can confidently come into your presence to tell you all our thoughts. Be with us this day as we talk about your wonderful love for us. Amen.
Have you ever noticed how poor the English language is? Most words can have a range of meaning, but the specific meaning of any word must be determined from the context. In our language, we only have one word for love, and yet it covers a whole multitude of meanings. We can use the word love in a variety of ways from “I love ice cream”, to “I love my wife or husband”, and many other things in between. No one gets confused by this because we understand what kind of love is meant from the context.
Yet in the Greek language of the New Testament, there are at least four words that are used to describe love.
The first word is eros, from which we get the English word erotic. Eros was the word often used to express sexual love or the feelings of arousal that are shared between people who are physically attracted to one another. By New Testament times, this word had become so corrupted by the culture that it is not used, even once, in the entire New Testament.
The second Greek word for love was storge, which referred to natural, familial love. Storge (a word not found in the Bible) referred to the type of love shown by a parent for a child.
The third Greek word for love was philia, which forms part of the words like philosophy (“love of wisdom”) and philanthropy (“love of fellow human”). This word speaks of the warm affection shared between friends.
Different from all of these is the fourth Greek word for love, agapé, and is typically defined as a “self-sacrificing love”. This is the love that moves people into action and looks out for the well-being of others, no matter the personal cost. Biblically speaking, agapé is the love God showed to his people in sending his Son, Jesus, to die for their sins.
God’s love is an active love. It was active in creating the world. It is still active in creating and sustaining the world as we speak. It is the love that focuses on the will, not the emotions, experience, or libido. This is the love that Jesus commands his disciples to show toward their enemies.
To see God’s love in action read John 3:16–18. Many people can recite verse 16. But we often lose sight of verses 17 and 18. How do verses 17,18 give you a different insight to verse 16?
Another passage that speaks of love but does not mention the word is Psalm 139, especially verses 1–16.
Read Psalm 139:1–16. How does this make you feel?
Read Luke 6:27–36. How easy or hard is it to act in the best interests of those you love and those who act as your enemies?
Another way that we see God’s active love in action is when we read Romans 5:8 and Jeremiah 31:3. As you read these passages, what feelings are stirred up in you?
In Romans 5:8, Paul tells us that God’s love for his people was made manifest in that while we were still sinners [i.e., enemies], Christ died for us.
When we look at our own love to God, our love is a passive love.
To explain I’ll use the illustration of gift giving. The one who gives a gift is the active person in the relationship. They have searched for the gift, they have bought the gift, and they have given it. The person who receives the gift receives it passively. They have done nothing to earn the gift, they haven’t searched for it, all they can do is to receive it with open hands.
God actively loves us. He sought us before we even sought him. He sought us before we were born. Even while we were still sinners and, by default, enemies of God, he sent his Son Jesus to die for us, to restore the relationship between himself and us. God was the instigator and not us.
In my current Confirmation class, we have come across a definition for “undeserved love” and that word is grace. When we understand that God shows undeserved love towards us even before we were born, we begin to somehow understand the immense active love that God has for us and for all of humanity.
Read Ephesians 2:8–10 from your Bible.
Please now read the verses below. Does this change you perception of what you have just read?
For it is by undeserved love you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by our works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
In the light of Ephesians 2:8–10, as God’s active love works on us, our love is changed from being passive to an active love. It is not active towards God, but it becomes an active love towards our family, our friends, our neighbours both near and far, and even our enemies.
How can you show God’s active love to others? Who can you influence with God’s active love?
As we close do you any other thoughts?
Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your active love that you always show to us through your Son Jesus. Help us to always receive this love and be active in showing this love towards other people in our community. In Jesus’ name. Amen.