The first of nine ingredients that Paul asserts as making up the fruit of the Spirit is love. Love is the measure of all things, the yardstick that God uses to measure the true intentions of the heart. Much has been written about love, songs have been written, poems have been uttered, with pathos and conviction, but none come close to defining the true measure of God’s love for us.
Love is also the atmosphere, or the environment of the Christian life. Love fuels our devotion, love fuels our worship, love fuels our sacrifice, and love fuels our commitment.
Ephesians 5:2, “And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.”
As children of God, we must not only speak of love, sing of love, or feel it once in a great while, but we are admonished by the Word to walk in love. We have the example, the prototype of what it is to walk in love. Jesus is our example; He exemplified, and still exemplifies what it is to truly love.
If we do not walk in love, then nothing we do has any relevance in the sight of God. We may preach well, write well, be good administrators of ministries or churches, but if we have not love for the lost, for the unsaved, for the brethren and for Christ it is all a vapor, absent of substance.
We often fail to understand that love is the universal motivation of the Christian life. It is the driving force of all our pursuits and endeavors. As Paul states, we can have the gift of prophecy, and understand all the mysteries and have all knowledge, and possess all faith so much so that we might move mountains, but if we have not love, we are nothing.
Even if we were to give all our possessions to feed the poor, and give our bodies to be burned, if these actions were done absent of love it would profit us nothing.
There are some who pursue ministry for personal wealth, others for notoriety, others to exert their influence or control over a group of people, but the only service God will receive as a sweet-smelling aroma, will be the service performed out of love, with no ulterior motives or hidden agendas. God sees the hearts of men as readily as we see the color of a preacher’s tie as he takes the pulpit and begins to speak. Nothing is hidden from His eyes, and He weighs not only men’s service, but whether or not it was performed in love, if it sprang out of the fountainhead of love.
Love is also the secret of Christian unity. I realize full well that looking at the Christian church today, unity is not the first word that springs to the forefront of our minds, but for the true believers love unites us, and acts as a bond that is strong and unyielding.
It would be disingenuous for me to say that the church is not fractured, but I believe much of the damage done to the church today is due to the wolves that we’ve allowed to sneak in, and commence the slaughter of the sheep. I will not shun our own accountability in this matter, as those who are saved and sanctified, because if we would have been more vigilant, if we would have voiced our outrage at the continual distortion of the Gospel, perhaps things would not have gotten this bad. The state of the church however, cannot take away from the lasting truth that love unites the children of God; love is the bond that holds us together.
Colossians 1:3-4, “We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints.”
When we possess the fruit of the spirit, love is self evident in all our actions. Our nature is transformed, our purpose shifts, in that love is the driving force that propels our decisions. When we possess love, our inclinations are no longer self serving, but rather we are inclined to serve, to sacrifice, to pour ourselves out as a sacrifice for the wellbeing of the body of Christ.
Love has a universal sphere of influence. When we have the love of Christ burning in our hearts, we love not only the brethren, or our church leaders, but we love mankind as well. To love is one of God’s great commandments, and apart from love our labors and our endeavors will be futile.
1 Thessalonians 5:12-13, “And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. Be at peace among yourselves.”
Love also compels us to be concerned about the spiritual wellbeing of our brothers and sisters in the Lord. When Paul heard that the church of Thessalonica was undergoing afflictions, and that they had heard of Paul’s hardships as well, he sent Timothy to establish and encourage them concerning their faith, that they might not be shaken.
Rather than be concerned with his own predicament, rather than lament the fact that he was being beaten and rejected, imprisoned and tortured, Paul’s first concern was for the spiritual wellbeing of those within the body of Christ.
After Timothy’s return to Athens, and receiving a good report concerning the church of Thessalonica, Paul writes back to the church, and informs them of the exceeding joy and encouragement he received at the hearing of their spiritual maturity.
1 Thessalonians 3:6-8, “But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and brought us good news of your faith and love, and that you always have good remembrance of us, greatly desiring to see us, as we also to see you – therefore, brethren in all our afflictions and distress we were comforted concerning you by your faith. For now we live, if you stand fast in the Lord.”
Paul found comfort in the faith of the Thessalonians, even though he himself was enduring afflictions and distress. Love is not self serving; it is always focused outward, and not inward. Yes, Paul was enduring hardships, he was enduring afflictions and distresses, but he valued the brethren more than he valued himself, and his concern was not for himself but for those that he had raised up in the faith.
The only reason Paul’s afflictions came into the discussion, was because he thought they might adversely affect the faith of those in the church Thessalonica. He encouraged them, by reminding them that in fact he had told them before, while he was with them, that he would suffer tribulation.
When we are more concerned with ourselves than with the body of Christ, when we are more concerned with how we will be perceived, how we will feel, or how we will cope, than with the Church being adversely affected by our actions, trials, or conduct, then though we might say it with our lips, we do not possess the love of Christ in our hearts.
The love of Christ in our hearts also compels us to share Him with the lost. Love is the motivation that causes us to preach the gospel. If we possess the love of Christ, then we possess the same desire as He did to see those in the darkness brought into the light.
Love also has clearly defined dimensions, which we are encouraged and admonished to know as children of God. When we begin to understand the width, length, depth, and height of Christ’s love, we begin to understand not only how much Jesus loves us, but the level of love we ourselves are required to show as His ambassadors on earth.
Ephesians 3:14-19, “For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height – to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
We can draw conclusions, or hypothesize as Augustine did, and say that the width is love itself, the height is hope, the length is patience, and the depth humility, but I believe the explanation is much simpler, and more profound. When we bring together the width, the length, the depth and height of love, we discover none other than Jesus Christ. He is love; He exemplifies love, and He defines love.
With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.