Famous and talented songwriters, screenwriters, authors, and poets have tried to capture what it means. The dictionary describes it as “an intense feeling of deep affection.”
Yet if we’re going to talk about love as a fruit of the Spirit, we need to define it in Bible terms. So let’s turn to I Corinthians 13, a passage you’ve likely heard read at a wedding!
[I’ve left in the word “charity” which the King James Version uses, but we can substitute what that word means – “love” – as we read.]
“Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
Charity never faileth….”
(Just reading these words is convicting! I’m writing this post at 8:30 on a Tuesday morning. Can I just let you know that I’ve already failed today at suffering long and being easily provoked? Asking the Holy Spirit now to help me be more loving today!)
Let’s take a quick look at each of these characteristics of love.
Love suffers long.
It’s patient. It accepts delays and interruptions without getting annoyed.
Love is kind.
Just living out this one characteristic would get me a long way! Love is considerate of others. (Side note: It’s easy to be kind when someone else is kind to me. But love is being kind when I’m treated rudely. Isn’t that the love that Christ lived out when He was here on earth?)
Love doesn’t envy.
It’s content with what it has, and isn’t looking to take from others.
Love vaunteth not itself.
It doesn’t take the spotlight or brag about itself or what it’s done.
Love is not puffed up.
It’s not self-important or arrogant, but has a realistic view of itself.
Love doesn’t behave itself unseemly.
It’s discreet and acts appropriately in each situation.
Love seeks not her own.
It’s willing to take second place, to sit quietly in the background, and let others get glory and take credit.
Love is not easily provoked.
It remains calm in a tense situation. It doesn’t get irritated or angry over little offenses.
Love doesn’t think evil.
It looks for and supposes the best about someone else and their motives.
Love doesn’t rejoice in iniquity, but in the truth.
It promotes and celebrates the truth, and is heartbroken over sin.
Love bears all things.
It holds up in difficult situations.
Love believes all things.
It looks for the best in every person and in every situation.
Love hopes all things.
It’s full of optimism.
Love endures all things.
It doesn’t give up.
Love never fails.
It goes on and on, regardless of what response it gets.
We could delve into each of these characteristics even more, yet this simple list overwhelms me with the depth of what true love means. I’d love to be each of these things for my family.
I wrote out the prayer below as I thought about how I could show love to my husband. We could do something similar with regards to our children, our friends, and others to whom we need to show love.
Lord, help me today to really love my husband. Let me be patient, and not easily annoyed by anything he does. I want to be even kinder to him than I would be to any friend who comes to visit our home. Help me to discern his needs, put them above my own, and be able to meet them in a way that shows him that I love him. Keep my mind focused on all of his best qualities – how he works hard to support our family, loves God, and is a man of excellent character. And even if he doesn’t notice or acknowledge my love, help me to go on loving him and serving him. Allow my love for my husband to be a reflection of your perfect love for me!
I can see why love is a fruit of the spirit!! I can never be all these things on my own. Yet what a gift it is to allow the Holy Spirit to produce love through us so that we can minister to others.