How do we grow in faith? Just as fruit grows and ripens to provide us nourishment, so the Characteristics of the Spirit help us grow closer to God. With each fruit of the Spirit we grow in faith and understanding what it means to be a Child of God.
The first Fruit is Love. The Old Testament Love was that of loyal obedience or hesed. The word that covers the many levels and types of love is ahava. The love which the Holy Spirit manifests in believers is agape. There is a difference between spiritual love and the societal/worldly understanding. The Love we learn from the Spirit requires a choice. The choice to be kind, to sacrifice, to consider another’s needs greater than one’s own. Paul shares a description of the ultimate love we can show others in this verse from his letter to Philippi:
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Philippians 2:3
God could have left us to our own evil ways and condemned all of us to darkness, but because of His Love for us:
“God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
And because God does not wish us to be separated from Him any longer, He gave of the blood from His only Begotten Son. In His death, the Word was poured unto the earth providing the final substitution for our sins saving His most beloved of creations and reopening the channel of communication that was closed due to sin.
“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13
“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:6-8
Paul was given the mission to spread the world to the Gentiles. In his travels he had to reform what the people understood love to be by providing the definition of God’s Love and how we are to show and share it with others.:
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” First Corinthians 12:4-8
Love of all persons is what we are to show. It does not mean to condone and equip the sins of others. We are to love in all ways to include tough love.
The Love for God is the same Love He shows to us. He loves us with His entire being so as such we should love the same. This is what we are to show our neighbor. A person that does not love (have a healthy, God fearing, heart) him/herself cannot truly show love to another:
“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31
Jesus renewed our understanding of the Commandments by summarizing them into two. This does not negate the Ten Commandments. Because He loves us, He requires us to share all His teachings, laws, and statutes through Love. This is Love:
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35
Because if we stay in His Love we are forgiven:
“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” First Peter 4:8
“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” John 14:15
Now this is what Love is not: Love is not a deep sexual desire that causes one to need or want to become one flesh outside of marriage, that is lust. Love is not the sexual desire that taunts persons of the same gender to have sexual relations, that is lust. Basically desires of the flesh do not equal love, they are lust which is a sin. It is rotted fruit.
Love is the first Fruit of the Spirit. It is the first part of the growth process. Love in the Spirit requires of us to choose to follow Christ and get to know the Father through a personal relationship communicated through the Holy Spirit. If we know this love then we will have Joy in all things, the second fruit.