First Mennonite Church
July 15, 2018
The Fruit of the Spirit: Love
John 14:15-7, 28; Galatians 5:22-23
Love might be one of the most misused and abused words in our language. You can find the word “love” everywhere! There are songs of love. Some people say they “love” cats more than dogs. Or, others love their cars or their towns. Some people say they love to eat chocolate or love their coffee very hot. We hear some are out there finding the “love” of their lives. And, also that people make love. The word “love” is used variously and it is no wonder why there is much confusion about the meaning of this word.
Once, a teenager was asked to define love and this is what she said, “Love is a feeling you feel, that you know it’s a feeling that you have never felt before.” Most of us think of love as a feeling. And that is why we cannot help ourselves regarding who or what we love. In the same manner of belief that love is a feeling, an emotional response to a circumstance or object, we cannot help but not love the things or people who do nor arouse in us that feeling. So, we love some things and hate others. We love given people, but cannot even tolerate, much less love, others. Therefore the question: what is love?
Is love a feeling or an emotion that moves us uncontrollably towards something? Do we love because what we love or who we love is easy to do so? Why loving others has to be commanded, particularly to Christians? Can we love if we simply do not have the feeling to do so?
If we have to be commanded to love one another, which we are, how do we obey this commandment when the person we are to love is not lovable or loving?
In the Bible we read that “God is love.” Often times when we preachers speak of love we are ready to impress by using the Greek word, agape—love. Preachers sometimes say that the agape type of love is used to describe God’s unconditional or sacrificial love— which is the highest kind of love. And it is true to the extent that every time the New Testament writers refer to God’s love or the kind of love with which Christians ought to love, they used the Greek word agape. But for our information, this word is also used in the following texts: 1John 2:15. Do not love the world or the things in the world. And where Paul says that “Demas loved the world” (2Timothy 4:10). In that regard agape is not used only for God’s love or the kind of love with which Christian should love, but also for the love and passion to pursue worldly things and values.
The Origin of Love
Again, John tells us that God is love (1John 4:8, 16). And by his actions, Jesus revealed that he was the embodiment of God. Jesus took time to smile and laugh with children at a time and place where children were expendables. He restored to life the only living relative of a mourning widow. He defended a sinner woman. Jesus happily obliged to be the guest of a hated tax collector. He wept along his dear friends Mary and Martha. In the end, he gave his life for the world. Jesus embodied God’s love. But he also gave a commandment to his disciples, which he described as a new commandment—to love one another as he had loved them. Therefore, his followers were commanded to be the embodiment of Jesus by loving one another.
Since the commandment is to love one another with sacrificial love—where do we get such power and strength to love, not only when it is easy to love?
The Promise of an Advocate
In John 14, Jesus assures his disciples that the Father would send “another Paracletos.” This noun has various meanings as we can see from the various translations of this verse—Advocate, Comforter, Counselor. Paracletos means the one who comforts, the one appeals on behalf of another, the one who stands beside another to provide assistance or guidance. Jesus identifies the Paracletos as the Holy Spirit who would remain with and in the disciples. The Paracletos will guide, remind, and teach everything Jesus had taught his disciples.
In the Paul’s letter to the Galatians, Paul says the first evidence of the fruit of the Paracletos—the Spirit is love. Love is the first sign that the promised Advocate is real and present in the lives of Jesus’ followers. Therefore, our capacity to love others is possible when we allow the Spirit of God to teach us the way of Jesus. Loving others is possible when the Spirit of God impresses the words of Jesus in our heart. Loving others is possible when we allow the Holy Spirit to walk alongside us—that is, living in full awareness of being in the presence of the Holy Spirit. Awareness of God’s Spirit being present with us and in us compels us to love others. Hence, the capacity to love does not emanate from us, as would be a feeling. It is an external power that enables us to care, to show concern, to be ready to forgive, and to love without expecting anything in return. The Paracletos gives us the strength to love not only what is loveable or when the love is reciprocal, but even when the object of our love is unlovable or unloving.
But the command to love does not end with loving the unlovable or unloving. Jesus commands to love even the enemy, which is a completely different issue. How can you love your child’s bully? How can you love the one who stole your brilliant idea only to pretend it is hers and get a promotion at the workplace? How can you love someone who gossips about you and backstabs you? How can someone love the murderer of his beloved child? How can we love those who undermine our principles and values? Yet, these are the very people Jesus asks us to love, bless and to pray for (Matthew 5:44). Loving the enemy would bring the circle of love to its completion. Loving the enemy would be like Jesus and Stephen who, even as they were dying, prayed for their executioners.
In Romans chapter five, verse five says that God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. If the love of God has been poured into our hearts and the Spirit of God is already dwelling in us, why loving others is still a challenge? The first and the most pervasive challenge we Christians have is keeping alive the excitement of the new life we have in Jesus. Losing the excitement of living in the Lord does not happen intentionally. Our daily duties, concerns, and desires take over our attention from the spiritual reality we have been called to—to live in full awareness of the presence of the Spirit of God. In the morning when we start off our day, for the sake of efficiency in what we need to do and accomplish during the day, we do a mental survey of our schedule for the day. We try as hard as we can to prepare for the tasks and encounters we would have during the day. Does the car have enough gas, what am I taking along for lunch, who is going to take so and so child here or there? Is everything at home in order or what did I not turn off? Besides that, when you go out on the street the concerns are others and still yet, you have not arrived to your workplace. These are the little things in a normal earthly life that overwhelm our limited mental capacity. Therefore, the last thing that comes to our mind is that we are living in the presence of the Holy Spirit. But I am sure that during your early days of giving your life to the Lord, you lived fully aware that God is with you. You were very much in tune with the voice of the Holy Spirit in you. But gradually that sense of closeness and newness of your life in the Lord fades away. That was particularly the case of the church in Ephesus according to Revelations 2. Through the voice of John, the Lord warned this church:
You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.
4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. 5 Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first (Rev. 2:3-5).
Love is described as something active, not a feeling. “Repent and do the things you did at first.”
Let us remember that just as we have to prepare for the day’s demands, we also need to prepare to produce the fruit of the Spirit. We need to take time and surrender to God’s Holy Spirit. Let us take time to yield our will, our mind, and our every moment. Let us not forget that every minute of our day and everywhere we are, the Advocate is with us and in us. Let us remember that love is the first evidence of God’s presence in us. Love is visible and palpable. Be kind to others. Reach out with words of concern. Show visible signs that you care for others. Do not be offended so easily at the mistake of others.
Once a pastor was on one lane of the drive-through of a McDonald’s and accidentally he cut the other driver on the other lane. The other driver lowered her window and started hurling insults at the pastor. He rolled down his window too and apologized but the woman continued. When the pastor got to the window he paid for the driver’s order behind him. “Oh sure,” the teller said. The pastor said, I tried to demonstrate my apology in a concrete manner.
The fruit of the Spirit is love, says Paul. Let us go and love in words and deeds. Amen!