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And so, with all that behind us, this morning we’re going to start looking at what living by the Spirit is all about, namely those fruits that God has planted within us and that we can allow to grow. And the first one is love. Of course, that’s not a surprise. I mean, even though Christians past and present
have been less than compassionate and merciful, especially to people and cultures that they considered strange and different, I think we all know that love should still be a big deal for believers. I mean, I think Jesus might have agreed with John Lennon when he sang “All you need is love.”
But I’ll tell you, when I think about love, it’s not The Beatles song that comes to mind first. Instead it’s those little “Love is...” cartoons that I remember seeing everywhere when I was in high school. Of course, they’re still being published, but I haven’t seen them for years. And as I remember, once you got past the fact that they looked like two naked children, I think some of them were kind of funny. And some of the were extremely cute. And some of them, well, they were really sad. Of course, I don’t think you’d strain any brain cells on any of them.
But, you know, it’s the two words up on the top of all of them, you know, “love is,” well, those words are really important, or at least they should be, especially for us as Christians. And so, for a few minutes, we’re going to look at what Paul had in mind when he wrote that love is the first fruit of the Spirit and for that reason, is probably the first thing we might want to get down if we’re serious about living a spirit-filled life. And I’ll tell you, when you look at what Paul wrote, I think there are two things he said about love that are different from what we generally think. Of course, I have no idea about what he’d draw if he were cartoonist, but I believe I’m on pretty solid ground about what he’d write if he were here today.
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always ‘me first,’
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
Love never dies.” [1 Corinthians 13:1-8a] Now that’s what he wrote.
And I’ll tell you, that seems a lot different from the way love is viewed in our society. I mean, based on what you see in movies and on television, in books and on billboards, in advertising and my gosh, printed on Hallmark cards, love is all about feeling, isn’t it? It’s liking on vitamins, but not steroids; that would be passion. It’s something that can make you feel deliriously happy or unspeakably sad or incredibly angry. I’ll tell you, it leads people to think that they’ve made either the absolute best or the absolute worse decision of their entire lives, and they feel that as they’re looking at the same exact person but at different times of the day. You see, I think this is the way we tend to view love, one that’s certainly mentioned in scripture whenever the Greek word φιλεω is used. But let’s face it, as applied in our world, it has more to do with Madison Avenue than the Bible.
But that’s sure not the way Paul described it. Love is something we’re expected to do. But even that’s too soft; it’s something we’re commanded to do. It’s like he wrote to the Galatians, a passage we talked a little bit about last week: “For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.” [Galatians 5:13-15] We’re obligated to love others. And of course, this command to love, man, it comes from the highest authority of all. Jesus said, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” [John 13:34-35] And I’ll tell you, that really points to why it’s so important for us to love. It’s like Jesus said, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” You see, since it’s our job is to bear witness to Jesus Christ and to make disciples of all nations, our decision to love is absolutely crucial. It’s the way we show the world who we are.
To love others isn’t optional; it’s not a choice. Love is a commandment. Love is an obligation.