But the Fruit of the Spirit Is Love
by Ed Daly
The Apostle Paul tells the Galatians, “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery” (5:1). While it’s true that every person who repents of their sin and places their faith in Jesus Christ is free from the penalty and the power of sin, Paul here is talking about freedom from the “yoke of slavery” of the Law. Many Jews at the time believed that keeping the Law through ritual practices like circumcision made them righteous before God, just as many religious people throughout the ages have believed that doing good works made them righteous before God. Alerting the Galatians to a false gospel, he goes on to say “Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law” (5:2). This is not, however, a free pass to a life of license and immorality. Paul goes on to say in verse 13, “For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”
As we all inspect our hearts, we can surely find instances in which we failed to serve one another in love. In our flesh, we are incapable of loving others as we should. We sometimes “love” people for their love of us or because they benefit us in some way. But, how about when our neighbor tests us, perhaps by sinning against us, do we love him or her then? Can any of us boast that we have never fallen short in loving our neighbor? Envy, irritation, impatience, unkind words or actions, hatred, gossip, and slander condemn us. We are indwelt by the Holy Spirit and must yield to the power of the Spirit in our daily lives, that is, in our walk. Paul exhorts the Galatians, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh” (5:16).
As we walk in the power of the Spirit and yield ourselves entirely to His influence, the Spirit produces tangible fruit in our lives: our actions, attitudes, and thoughts toward others become loving whereas they were previously unloving. Loving our neighbor is not something that we can do in the flesh. We might be able to put on a pretense of care and concern, but truly loving our neighbor is not natural to our selfish, sinful human nature. To love our neighbor in the power of the Spirit, we must first grasp the love that God has for us, even in our sinful condition. 1 John 4:19 states, “We love because He first loved us.” God loves us not because we are lovable, but because “God is love” (1 John 4:8). Moreover, “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16). God’s love is a sacrificial love. Leon Morris said, “When we see man for what he is, the wrath of God for what it is, and the cross for what it is, then and only then do we see love for what it is.”
Our response to God’s sacrificial love for us (demonstrating His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us; Romans 5:8) should be to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12: 30). Our love for God should be manifested in our love for others which is characterized by our desire to serve them. If I fall short of loving my neighbor, then I am not producing the fruit of the Spirit, meaning that instead of walking in the Spirit, I’m walking in the flesh. The point of all this is that we cannot obey God’s command to love others because we have the inner strength to do so. We have to respond to the love of God by loving Him. We do this by seeking the power of His Spirit to love others as the manifestation of our love for Him. The surest test of genuine spiritual fruit in your life is whether you love your neighbor, whether he is lovable or not, just as God loved you in your most unlovable state. That is genuine proof of a person who has been set free by Christ to live according to the Spirit. So, do you love your neighbor with the kind of sacrificial love that God showed you?