First Fruit: Love
The first quality listed as fruit of the Spirit is Love. Is there a reason love is listed first, or did Paul just randomly decide to list this as the first quality? While admittedly we cannot know for certain Paul’s intent, we have great reason to believe, and many agree that love was listed first by design.
Throughout the Bible, in many places and ways, the preeminence of love is often expressed:
- The Bible is often described as a love story. “For God so loved the world he gave his only Son…” (John 3:16)
- When asked what the greatest command was, Jesus responded “Love God” and “Love your neighbor” (Mark 12)
- As Jesus was prepping his disciples for his departure and their new role as his witnesses, he gave them a new commandment to love each other and that be the sign that they were indeed his disciples (John 13:35)
- Paul in his first letter to the Corinthian church devotes an entire chapter to love, beginning his treatise by saying “I will show you a more excellent way” and ending stating “of faith, hope and love, the greatest is love.” ( 1 Corinthian 13)
- After listing in Colossians 3 some qualities that we as Christ followers should “put on” (some of which are also listed in as Fruit of the Spirit), Paul finished the thought saying “above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”
I think it is pretty safe to say that love is very important to God. It is THE greatest command, THE distinguishing mark, THE most excellent way, and it is THE virtue that ties all together in harmony.
It is that last aspect – that loves ties all things in perfect harmony – that makes the first fruit of love stand out. As one writer puts it, “it is the very glue that produces unity in the church.” W.E. Vine, of this phrase, writes: “Love is the power which holds together all the other virtues…love, in its binding power, gives perfectness, or completeness, to the other virtues in combination. For lacking love they certainly would not be perfect.”
At Christ Community Church, because of this exalted role of love in our lives, we emphasize the importance of Loving God, Loving People and Serving Others. As we grow in these areas, we will more effectively fulfill our vision of making an eternal difference in people’s lives. If that is our end goal, then what can we do to grow in our ability to Love God and others?
It is impossible to grown in our love for someone without getting to know them better. And conversely, as we get to know someone on a deeper level, that allow us to love them more deeply.
How can we know and love God better and deeper? Two “W” words come to mind:
Worship, in general, is giving honor to another – particularly one who is greater than you. As we reflect on who God is (praise) and what He has done (thanksgiving), we can’t help but grow in a deeper love relationship with Him.
>Love Challenge: Here are some ideas to help you grow in your love of God through worship this month:
- Slow down enough daily to stop and reflect on God’s goodness
- Daily stop and specifically give thanks to God for something(s) that day.
- Read through and meditate on some of the Psalms
- When at church, pay closer attention to the words of the songs we are singing and fully engage your heart, mind and spirit to the truth in those songs.
We get to know God better by better knowing His Word – His written word (the Bible) and His living Word (Jesus).
>Love Challenge: Here are some ideas to help you grow in your love for God through His Word this month:
- Read through one of the gospels (or a harmony of the gospels) and see just how Jesus lived his life.
- Do a study of one of your favorite Bible characters and see how God was involved in his/her life
- Commit this year to read through the Bible in a year (you can find reading schedules online)
- Be sure to take away a specific application from each Sunday sermon
How do we grow in our love for others? Two “C” words come to mind:
As our culture becomes more and more fragmented, we connect with fewer and fewer people. We smile, wave, but often times never connect. Obviously, to love we need to know.
>Love Challenge: Here are some ideas to help you connect with others this month:
- Be sure to introduce yourself (even go out of your way) to someone on your street, in your building, where you work who you do not yet know.
- Be sure and introduce yourself to someone at church you do not yet know or do not know very well.
- Come to church early and/or stay a while after church and hang around to meet others (coffee is always served in the café). Or even go out to eat after church.
As we connect on a deeper level with a group of people, we begin to develop a sense of community. Again, in our fragmented society there is such a loss of community.
>Love Challenge: Here are some ideas to help you begin to develop community with others this month:
- Invite some people over for a meal, game night, etc. to just hang out and get to know them better.
- Join or at least visit one of the church’s Community Groups.
- Consider hosting a new Community Group at your home.
Let’s each take a step this month to allow God’s love to grow in each of us. Also, feel free to share in the comment section (once we get it going) step you are taking as well as what you are learning and experiences. This is a way we can encourage each other.
“…if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:2)