So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples." -- John 13: 34-35 (NLT)
God has a system set up here on earth to spread the word about His grace and love and mercy. He has devised a plan where the people of God would behave in a certain way. A way contrary to the ways of the world. That through the manifestation of the fruit of the Holy Spirit, people on the outside would be able to clearly see in our lives - joy, peace, love, patience, kindness, goodness and faithfulness. Think about that for a moment. In a world filled with abject misery they would see joy within us. In a world filled with utter turmoil they would see peace in us. In a world filled with pure hate they would see love inside of us. Instead of mean-spiritedness they would see kindness. Instead of evil -- goodness. Instead of faithless -- faithfulness. Not just the pastors. Not just the ministry leaders or the holy rollers. All of us. I am not suggesting that we would succeed 24-7 but we would be trying and striving for it and yes beloved -- they would see it. God's plan is simple. Once they see it they would want it. I mean who wouldn't want peace in the storm and love instead of hate? Step three is they would ask us and we would tell them about Jesus Christ.
Somewhere along the way though, we have more trouble with displaying the fruit of the Spirit than God intended. Our flesh, the enemy and the world system all work together to rot our fruit. To make us ineffectual for the plan God has. I can probably do a series on the individual fruit manifestations but today I just want to look at one. Love. I choose love because the Bible places the greatest importance on it:
Three things will last forever--faith, hope, and love--and the greatest of these is love. -- 1Corinthians 13: 13 (NLT)
Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. -- Colossians 3: 14 (NLT)
When I see the phrase clothe yourself I am reminded that God understands that it is not innate within us to be loving people. We have to clothe ourselves with love -- we have to put it on. It requires a conscious decision. When you left your house today, you consciously chose what you were going to wear. What you clothed yourself with. You took great care I assume in doing so. Matching socks even! Well, if we want to match Jesus when we go out each day, we have to clothe ourselves with love. It is the greatest of the three things that last forever and binds us all in perfect harmony.
Unfortunately, love is one of the only areas that we as Christians seemingly ignore Scripture on in favor of the worldly version. That version of love has been twisted and distorted over thousands of years. In the world love is conditional. Love is reactive. It is not eternal and changes based upon circumstances. It is not love as God intended. It is a hideous shadow of real love. Thankfully however, Scripture does define love for us quite clearly:
If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn't love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God's secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn't love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn't love others, I would have gained nothing. Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. -- 1Corinthians 13: 1-7 (NLT)
Ahh, the famous love verses from Paul. Recited at every wedding and then promptly forgotten about after every honeymoon. But I want to go deeper than that today. This is about love as God intended, not in romantic relationships, but with everyone. Note the first few verses here and you see God is talking not about how you love your spouse but how we are to "love others." Putting romantic relationships aside, these verses primarily deal with how we are supposed to manifest the fruit of love towards other believers, people outside of the church, and ultimately God. If we were to ask the average Christian if they loved God they would shout absolutely! Do you love other believers? Absolutely! People in the world? Of course!