Galatians 5:22 – Love
“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!”
Love may be the single most complicated word to understand in our world today. You can grab a dictionary, sure, but it will not even begin to define “love” in a way that holds more power than your own personal experiences. Each of us carries definitions of that word, and many of these definitions involve significant pain.
Pause for a moment. What does “love” mean to you? Who are the people who have said, “I love you” in your life? How did they act towards you? If those questions are complicated, I would encourage you to write more extensively in a journal to process your thoughts and experiences.
God has a lot to say about love. In the New Living Translation, the word appears 759 times. Jesus used it twice when summing up the greatest commandments: Love God and love each other. Paul said that if you don’t love, anything else you do is basically about as pleasant to God as the clattering noise of pot lids being used as percussion instruments.
Perhaps the most freeing verses about love are found in 1 John. Since John was known as the “disciple Jesus loved” it makes sense that he would have one of the best definitions of love around. Few of us have had an earthly source of love so pure as that. 1 John 4:9-10 say,
“God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.”
And verses 17-19 add,
“And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. We love each other because he loved us first.”
Real love, regardless of anything you have ever experienced before, is defined by the very fact that God loved you and came to rescue you. Real love does not expect anything in return because we know that there is nothing we can give back to God that would be an equal exchange. God never asks for a “quid pro quo.”
Here’s your freedom for today: the only way we know love is by being loved. Any love that has eternal value comes from dwelling in the presence of the Holy Spirit and being filled by his love for us. We know from our Galatians 5 study that we no longer have to focus on rules and punishment. And so it is with love. We are free to love because we are loved. What would freedom look like for you today if you threw away everything you have ever thought about love and started over? Even if you have been a Jesus-follower for a long time, I challenge you to throw out everything you think you know and start again. That is what I am doing right now as I write this. Because the love of God is deep and infinite, I know I have only barely cracked the surface so far. Are you ready to dive in deeper with me?