“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness…”
Love leads the list of virtues of the fruit of the Spirit because it is the supreme virtue of the Christian life (1 Corinthians 13:13). It is a sacrificial love whereby we lose something to give to others.
“Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:10).\
“For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Galatians 5:14).
Biblical love is not primarily emotional but volitional. Agape love is not emotional love but love that springs from character. God loved us with His character even in the face of our sin,
“This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:12-13).
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
“By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (1 John 3:16-17)
The outstanding hallmark of being a believer is love.
The outstanding hallmark and essential earmark of being a believer is love. The Holy Spirit is the only one who can produce biblical love. This is not the kind of love you receive from your parents. This love cannot come from a close relationship with your wife. It does not come from human relationships but the Spirit Himself.
One of the by-products of becoming a Christian is that the Holy Spirit revolutionizes our love toward God and other people. One of the benefits of salvation is that God drops a large lump of sugar in our hearts enabling us to love someone besides our mother, father, children, or wife. That is the best non-Christians can sometimes do; they cannot even do that.
When a Christian comes into contact with the love of God, it changes their love for others. When we heard the gospel, God amazed us that He loved us so. His love so captured our hearts that it captivated and mastered us.
“Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:5).
God does not call upon us to love with our own puny, skinny, anemic love. God enables us to love beyond our own natural brand of love. Natural love loves those who love us in return. Divine love enables us to love the unlovely. That is a potent, powerful love that goes beyond self. This love indwells us whether we know it or not. It waits there for the floodgates to open because the love of God dwells in our hearts.
“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love… For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another” (Galatians 5:6,13).
The Holy Spirit donates this love to us. The day our Savior died, He commanded us to operate on the virtue of love.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).
Some of Jesus’ disciples might have said, “Jesus, can’t you wait until we mature more in our Christian lives to love my fellow disciples?” Maybe Matthew said, “I can’t love that big mouth Peter sitting over there.” James could have said, “How can you love a dreamer like John. He is always on cloud nine. You need to be practical and have your feet on the ground, you know.” No, Jesus said, “love each other” right up front in their ministry
We might say, “OK, Lord, well, how much should we love fellow believers?” Jesus’ answer is clear — “As I have loved you.” “Oh, [gulp]. I did not think the standards were that high!”
Jesus added something more to this statement – “by this shall all men know that you are my disciples.” Men will know that we are Jesus’ disciples when we wear the badge of love. The badge of Christian discipleship is not witnessing or manifesting a gift of the Spirit but the production of divine love.
Jesus said, “Love you enemies” (Matthew 5:43). Some of us cannot even love our friends, let alone our enemies.