Jesus said, “I chose you to go produce fruit that will last” (John 15:16, NLT). The Apostle Paul told the Colossian believers: “You will produce fruit in every good work and grow in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:9-10, NCV). It is the Lord’s will that every believer bear fruit in four important categories: (1) the fruit of a fully devoted follower of Christ; (2) the fruit of the work of the anointing; (3) the fruit of the blessing of God; and (4) the fruit of the character forces of God (the fruit of the Spirit). For the next nine weeks in this column I will be discussing how to develop or “farm” the last category in the believer’s life—the fruit of the Spirit.
The first and most important character force of God or fruit of the Spirit is love. Paul admonishes the believer: “May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love” (Ephesians 3:17-18, NLT). God wants us to be thoroughly rooted and grounded in the force of love—that is to grow up and mature in the love of God.
The fruit of love, like the other fruit of the Spirit, is actually a spiritual force that when applied to the life of the believer accomplishes much. First, love gives the world a glimpse of God. Second, love frees the believer from fear. It is impossible to walk in perfected love and continue to dwell in fear. Third, love activates one’s faith. In fact, our faith is energized and empowered by love and limited and stunted when love is not employed. Fourth, love covers all wrongs. Love is forgiving, gracious, and kind when people fail. Finally, love marks you as a genuine Christian. Jesus said the test of our true discipleship is whether we have love one toward another (John 13:35).
There are three major keys for walking in love. First, decide to obey the command to love God and others. Love is not an option for us—we are told to love God, one another, our enemies, our neighbors, and our spouses unconditionally. It is no surprise that the greatest command is to keep the “greatest of these” called love. Love is a choice!
The second key for walking in the love of God is to develop the characteristics of the love walk: “So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love. Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut, doesn’t have a swelled head, doesn’t force itself on others, isn’t always ‘me first,’ doesn’t fly off the handle, doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, doesn’t revel when others grovel, takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, puts up with anything, trusts God always, always looks for the best, never looks back, but keeps going to the end” (1 Corinthians 13:3-7, MES). Love conducts itself in very specific ways. There are parameters and behaviors of love. In other words, love is not just a state of mind or a theological truth, or feeling. Love is a lifestyle (and full time job)!
The third key for walking in the love of God is to declare your love for God and for others. People need to hear that we love them. While individuals clearly have “love languages” (ways they like love communicated to them such as words of affirmation, meaningful touch, acts of service, receiving of gifts, and quality time), everyone from time to time needs to hear our love verbally declared to them. Words are very powerful. They are like containers that hold and transport things. Verbally expressing love to someone releases spiritual power in the life of the one that receives it. Proverbs 18:21 says, “The tongue has the power of life and death.” Love is a word. Learn to speak it!