The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness
& self-control. – Galatians 2:22-23
Love tops the list. It’s the first evidence that we’re under new management, that Christ is alive in us. Love grows in us because God is love.
Kate McCord relates her experiences living and working for five years in Afghanistan:
In Islam, there are 99 names for God, but none is ‘love.’ In Afghanistan, no one tells people that God loves them. They tell each other God is kind, all powerful, and omniscient. God commands and people must obey. God will reward or punish depending on how people obey. (In the Land of Blue Burqas, p. 105)
For the Afghans she met, the idea that God is love was absurd. They feared God’s judgement. Whatever happened, they accepted as God’s will. So, they became resigned to violence, loss, and acute suffering. But the violence and suffering that pervades the world does not reflect God’s will. They flow from our human inclination to resist God’s will with all we’ve got.
Our shared human rebellion, says the Apostle Paul, produces hatred, discord, jealousy, rage, selfish ambition, envy, drunkenness, sexual immorality, idolatry… the list goes on. The human heart beats with a love of power: a desire to get the better of someone else. A desire to take more for ourselves. We see it in school yards. In workplaces. In business. In election campaigns.
Songwriter Carolyn Arends says:
So many living for the love of power, Wanting more until their final hour
The day has come for us to be part of, The ones who find a ruler in the power of love.
When we’ve grown up hearing that God loves us we may take it for granted. But listen again. Hear the great good news: God · loves · you. God loves us. God loves our neighbours.
He invites us to revel in his love for us and for others. To live it. To be ruled by the power of love. This is not mushy or romantic. It isn’t even a feeling. This love is a choice. A decision. A choice to bless instead of curse. A choice to give instead of grab.
This is difficult. It’s not what people expect. For too long we’ve practised the love of power. But the Holy Spirit enables us to practise the power of love.
Of course, once we discover that God loves us, it dawns on us that God loves other people too. Even people we don’t like much. Just for fun, think of someone in your office, or classroom, or extended family. A neighbour or customer. Someone who’s a challenge to love.
What might help them know that they matter to God? What if, this month, we began to pray for someone who only God knows how to love? Let’s dare to choose love. To live love, in Jesus’ name.