The Fruit of the Spirit: Love

*NOTE: Hey Mountain Goats! This is one part of a whole series about the Fruits of the Spirit. If you haven’t read the introduction post yet, you can do so here!

“Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.”

Proverbs 3:3-4

“Love” is a word thrown around a lot these days. We hear it in our songs. We hear it from our friends and family. We even use the word “love” to describe our morning coffee or favorite late-night dessert. 

It seems, with how much “love” we throw around, the world should be a very lovely place to live.

But it’s not. Not really.

Wars are being waged, crimes are being committed, even within the Christian community hate is continually being spewed and spread, infecting minds and slandering God’s good name.

It’s almost as if we have forgotten what “love” really means… or did we even understand it’s meaning to begin with?

Love is a Four Letter Word

What comes to mind when asked to define what “love” means to you?

Do you define it by items or acts? By feelings or sacrifices? Can “love” even be truly defined by modern words, as some would say “I love you more than words could ever express!”

The Oxford dictionary defines it as “an intense feeling of deep affection; A great interest or pleasure in something; A feeling of deep romantic or sexual attachment to someone/thing.”

These definitions are a perfect example of where society has strayed from the true and honest meaning of the word.

The true definition of “love” is defined for us in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7:

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

A truer definition of love has never been written or spoken, at least not one I’ve ever seen. Love isn’t just an intense feeling. It isn’t just something we say when we like something, or feel passionate toward a person. 

Love is about sacrificing selfish wants and desires for the salvation of others. It’s about understanding others, wanting to guide them towards good, and teaching them how to choose right over wrong.

It isn’t forceful. It doesn’t push or prod. It’s simply there when called upon, always ready to lend a helping hand.

There are many believers who don’t fully understand this concept, or confuse it to be reserved only for specific groups of like-minded individuals.

Do NOT fall for these false truths taught around the world within the Christian faith. God has commanded us to love eternally, extending that love to each and every soul that walks the earth.

“Let all that you do be done in love.”

1 Corinthians 16:14

We are called to be perfect, as God is perfect (Matt. 5:48), to love unconditionally, and serve others so that we may all enjoy in Christ forever.

To act in love is not our only calling, however. We must also recognize its meaning when used as a noun.

God as Love

Love the noun is, in essence, another name for God. God is love. And through Love, we can do all things.

“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.”

1 John 4:16

The biblical definition of “Love” still stands here. If we replace the word “Love” with “God,” we are given a beautiful look into the character of God and what it truly means to love:

GOD is patient and kind; GOD does not envy or boast; HE is not arrogant or rude. HE does not insist on its own way; HE is not irritable or resentful; HE does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. GOD bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Through His word, guidance, and numerous examples, we can strive to love and be perfect like Christ.

Love in Practice

The Bible has many examples exemplifying God’s love for us and all of creation. The greatest and most widely known example of this is represented in John 3:16:

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

This sacrifice of life and body itself displays just how deep God’s love is for us. We should all strive to have a love that strong. This can be achieved by applying 1 Corinthians 13 to our everyday life.

  • We must be patient with our brothers and sisters, believing that no matter where they are in their journey, the Holy Spirit will guide them forward when the time is right (Philippians 4:6).
  • We must show kindness to everyone, even those who would look to do us harm (Matthew 5:43-48).
  • We must be happy for the advancements in others lives, and not become jealous. On the opposite end of that, we should not flaunt our own successes in the faces of others. While it’s okay to feel good about and celebrate the good things that God graces in our lives, it in no way makes us better than any other person in the eyes of God (Jeremiah 9:23).
  • We should always be humble, never insisting on our own way. The only way we should ever insist on is God’s way. Only His way is truly pure and good (Psalm 28:7).
  • We should never praise a bad deed. No matter what perceived good has come from it. Even something as small as a lie should be seen as a sin to be corrected (Matthew 7:17-18).
  • We are meant to stick behind God through all of life’s pain, hardships, and woes. We are never meant to stop loving our brothers and sisters, no matter how many times they betray us, hurt us, or ignore us, just as God has never left us when we’ve committed these exact sins against Him.

So long as we keep our trust in Him and our minds focused upon His will, His love will come naturally. 

Love Intentionally

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”

John 15:12

Love is a constant that will never diminish so long as it is true. As Christians, it is our sole duty to love constantly, consistently, and thoroughly with as much intensity as we possibly can. Only through love can we ever hope to save our fallen world.

With Love on our side, there is nothing we can’t do. 

A Prayer for All Us Mountain Goats

Lydia here! My prayer for you all, for myself as well, is that we could truly realize the impact of God’s love. I pray that we can realize the sacrifice that made God’s love so much more evident, and realize how undeserving we are, and how beautifully merciful God is. I pray that God’s love fills us so full that we overflow with love for Him and for others around us. Most of all, I pray that you know how much God loves you.

D. T. Yates

Christian, Content Editor

How To Build a Relationship with God

“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ…I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” 

Philippians 3:7-8a

How beautiful is the relationship between Paul and Christ? He counts everything as loss for the sake of Christ our King, and even refers to everything as “rubbish” or “dung” in comparison to His splendor. 

It is even more beautiful when you realize that Paul never met Christ on earth. He literally went from murdering Christians to becoming one in the matter of a week (really, a day), and went on to write most of the new testament and spread the gospel further than any of the apostles before him.

I want a relationship with God like Paul’s with Christ; one which is all consuming and fills me with bountiful, eternal joy. I want to be so filled with a passion for God that I can’t stop talking about Him, writing about Him, and sharing His truth with everyone around me, like Paul did.

So what’s stopping me? In fact, what’s preventing any of us who want to build a stronger relationship with God from doing so?

There are many facets of today’s daily life that crave our attention and time. From work and school, to friends, family, pets, and social media, our minds are constantly being pulled in every direction, horizontally.

These distractions cause us to make conscious decisions everyday that strain our relationship with God, decisions even I choose to make. And that’s not okay. 

Why is that? Why do we, who are so passionate for and constantly craving God’s presence, choose these distractions over our Creator?

Simply put, it’s easy. 

It’s easy to sleep an extra thirty minutes instead of getting up for communion with God. It’s easy to watch the next episode of a show instead of reading His Word. It’s easy to set aside time for friends or family, but never even devote five minutes to building a strong spiritual relationship with our Father.

Pushing God away is part of the fall, making it natural for us to choose against Him. What isn’t natural is setting aside time for someone we don’t know, someone we can’t physically see or hear, and it’s hard to consciously make those kinds of decisions.

Yet that’s exactly what we are called to do.

The Internal Struggle Between Right and Wrong

Building a relationship with God is a difficult endeavor. J.I. Packer, in His book Knowing God, claims “…Christian minds have been conformed to the modern spirit: the spirit, that is, that spawns great thoughts of man and leaves room for only small thoughts of God.”

Packer has recognized our passion for greatness and our lack of zeal for a God who, by nature, is Great. The contradiction of our own desires creates a burning sense of confusion among those who can’t see the magnificence of the character of God — and don’t try to.

Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or His ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear.”

Isaiah 59:1-2

Our sin nature is the crux of what separates us from a desire to know God, to really desire Him, His presence, and His will. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2:14, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The “natural” is our sin, our nature

That sin nature, however, can’t actually keep us from knowing God if we actively choose to seek Him. Staying active in our faith gives us access to the most extraordinary relationship in eternity (literally). It builds within us a will for something greater. God promises in Psalm 37:4 to give us the desires of our hearts if we delight ourselves in the Lord. If we choose God, our desire will be God. 

There is an internal battle between right and wrong within us, governing each decision we make. Choosing God is one thing, but overcoming sin is a whole other story.

Overcoming Sin

The first step to building a relationship with God is getting to know Him.

Just like at the start of any personal relationship, you want to know who you are going to be spending your time with, talking to, talking about, and eventually, trusting.

You also don’t want to just simply know about God. For example, I know a lot about J.R.R. Tolkien, but I don’t know him personally. It’s a personal connection you’re after, not just information.

The best way you can go about getting to know anyone is simple, you communicate.

Communion with God

Communication with our God is a privilege, one in which we are invited and called to indulge. 

 “…far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and the right way. Only fear the Lord and serve Him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things He has done for you.” 

1 Samuel 12:23a-24

Many strong biblical characters have their prayers recorded within scripture: 

These Christians, as well as countless others in scripture alone, are great examples of what a healthy relationship with the Father looks like. However, the most perfect example of this is the one established for us by Christ.

Jesus kept a constant communication with God. He prayed during His 40 days of temptation in the desert (Matt. 4:1-11), before every meal (Matt. 14:19), and for hours before he was brought before Pilate for his trial and crucifixion (John 17).

In Matthew 6:5-15, Jesus teaches us the benefits of communicating with God, and provides a model for prayer that many churches still follow today.

Prayer alone isn’t enough, though. We must continuously be listening for God’s response. Relationships are not one-way. God does hear us, and God does reply:

  • God’s voice is everywhere (Ps. 29:3)
  • God’s voice is powerful and full of majesty (Ps. 29:4)
  • God’s voice flashes forth flames of fire (Ps. 29:7)
  • God’s voice thunders wondrously (Job 37:5)
  • God’s voice can, however, appear through a whisper (1 Kings 19:9-12)

God is our Shepherd. If we know Him, we will know His voice (John 10:14-16).

Characteristics of a Healthy Spiritual Relationship

God has not left us alone. There is a whole community of believers around the world who are studying God’s word, building their own relationships, and sharing their knowledge with us just like Paul did with the churches of the New Testament.

One of these believers is, in fact, J. I. Packer. In Knowing God, he breaks down some of the visible signs that one has built a healthy relationship with God. These characteristics encompass active efforts of faith that grow as we get closer to Him.

Those Who Know God Have Great Energy for God

Our actions are reactions to a culture that is notably opposed to the Christian worldview and to God as a whole. When people disrespect God’s name, we should be spurred into action. 

“People who know their God are people who pray, and the first point where their zeal and energy comes to expression is through prayer.”

Packer, 1973, p. 28

Having Great Thoughts of God

This contrasts the small thoughts of God mentioned earlier. We have to set aside room in our minds for great thoughts of God, which are evident in the examples set by Daniel: 

“Praise be to the name of God forever and ever; wisdom and power are His. He changes times and seasons, He sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom. He knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells within Him.”
Daniel 2:20-21

“O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant of love with all who love Him and obey His commandments…The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving…the Lord our God is righteous in everything that He does.”
Daniel 9:4-14

Daniel recognized God in a way that was outwardly expressive and gave Him glory. He risked his life (many times, actually) to glorify and praise God.

Showing Great Boldness for God 

To use the example of Daniel once again, he was quite literally thrown to the lions because he wouldn’t compromise his faith. He was imprisoned, threatened, and persecuted, yet he never stopped praising God.

In Daniel 6, King Darius goes to see if Daniel is still alive in the lions’ den. The first thing Daniel does is exclaim God’s hand in his life/survival, then pleas for redemption from the king’s punishment. Because of this, Darius writes a decree addressing God as a living God, and Daniel prospered. 

God is with Us

If we exhibit these three characteristics, then seeking God our Father, our Savior, our King, will become more natural. We will long for communion with Him and desire that everlasting relationship we as Christians have been promised as a result of the resurrection of Christ.

“Let the Bible be the place where God meets you…let the Bible be the place where you speak back to Him.”

John Piper

We serve an active and living God who has invited us to be adopted into His kingdom. Our walk of faith is a response to the grace of our Creator, our Redeemer, our King.

We are His children and He is with us every step of the journey.

A Prayer for All of Us Mountain Goats

I could go on for pages about the love of God and the examples of that love in scripture. It is so great, that we can’t fully understand it. When I consider the overwhelming presence of His love, I am flooded with joy and I know that God is here, actively communicating with me even as I write this. 

My prayer for you—and one I pray for my own friends, family, and also myself—is that you will be filled with a deep hunger and passion to experience God’s love firsthand. I pray this passion inspires you to learn about God, grow within His Spirit, and entirely praise His majesty.

Lydia Cannon

Christian, Writer, Coffee Addict

Supporting Verses

Proverbs 3:12
Isaiah 9:6
Matthew 19:5
John 20:21
Ephesians 2:18
1 John 3:1
John 10:29
Psalm 68:5
Luke 10:27
John 3:16
Romans 5:8
Philippians 4:19
Ephesians 5:23
Colossians 1:18

Don’t forget to check out the Recommendations page for links to other Christian organizations and Bible study tools!