Going through the fruit of the Spirit, which is the outworking and evidence of us abiding in Jesus and the Holy Spirit abiding in us; it struck me again the importance and centrality of love. Love individually and love corporately. There is just no getting away from it. God is love, and if we want to be filled by God then we must be filled with his love. On paper we might agree with that, but 1 Corinthians 13 makes it very clear what the practical outworking of that love of God looks like. When we read it, it seems like an impossibly high bar. God’s love is patient, it is kind, it isn’t envious of others, it doesn’t boast (counter cultural in our social media world). It is not rude, nor is it self-seeking, it doesn’t get angry easily, keeps no record of others wrongs against us. It always trusts (risk of trust being broken), it always hopes (for a better future), and it always perseveres.
Wow! How do we individually and as a church measure up to that? Just run your own personal life over those things and in your head give yourself a quick score out of 10. Then if you feel courageous maybe ask the person who knows you best to score you – see how they compare. Paul says that if we don’t love like this then nothing else we do matters or counts, no matter how “Christian” or supernatural they may be. Just as without abiding in Jesus we can do nothing, if we do not have this kind of love of God in us, what we do means nothing!
It seems a bit harsh but I think the reality is that if we do not love in this way then we are not abiding in Jesus or being transformed by his Holy Spirit. Both John 15 and 1 Corinthians say that this will be the fruit if we truly do abide in Christ. The fruit just comes naturally by being in the vine and it is unforced. So how can that happen without us just “trying harder” and failing and feeling miserable and guilty? I think there are two simple answers that will lead us to loving more and producing the fruit of the Spirit. Firstly we have to experience the overwhelming unconditional, complete, and pure love of God for us personally. It is only when we have been overwhelmed by and “undone” or set free by the love of God that we can then do that for others. Until we fully experience the deep love of our Father then we will always struggle to love others. Secondly we need to spend more time with Jesus, in prayer, in his word, in his presence, wasting time with him. The more intentional time we spend with Jesus and abide in him, the more he will abide in and change us to be more like him. Two very simple things that we as humans find incredibly hard to do.
Grace and Peace - Garry