People often say that Christianity is for people who are weak. But it takes no character, commitment or strength to be self-centered and do whatever makes “me” happy. It takes real strength and character to allow the Holy Spirit to slice and dice our natural tendencies and produce qualities that enrich and bless the lives of others. However, too many, who say they are believers, don’t bear the fruit that should be evident in the life of one who is led by God’s Spirit. It’s a battle between our natural instincts and God’s plan for our lives. Paul writes that the most important evidence of God’s Spirit within a person is love. Without love all else fails. As we experience God’s love for us, we are called to love others in the same way. God’s love is unconditional. Even before we knew him, even while we were living in sin, Christ died for us. God didn’t look around to see if we were worthy, he just loved. God’s love is sacrificial. Jesus died on the cross for us. It’s hard to comprehend that if you or I had been the only person in need of a Savior, he still would have sacrificed his life to give us the opportunity for salvation. God’s love is continual. It is not based on circumstances. He doesn’t love us when we’re good and stop loving when we’re bad. The Bible says that nothing can separate us from the love of God. The Holy Spirit wants to produce the same kind of love in us—fruit!

Jn 15:8, 13; Ro 8:35, 37-39; 1 Co 13:13; Ga 5:16-17, 22-23; Eph 2:4-5; He 4:12

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and
self-control…. (Gal 5:22-23) For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, or depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Ro 8:38-39) For now there are faith, hope, and love. But of these three, the greatest is love. (1 Cor 13:13)

How can we cultivate love in a culture of self-interest and me first? For starters, we must throw away our list that dictates which people we will and won’t love. Jesus talked with the Samaritan woman, he cared for the women caught in adultery, the men who were hated by society, the unclean, the marginalized, and he called the children to come to him. He had no restrictions on who was worthy of his love. Next, we must stop analyzing the cost and benefit of loving. Whether or not we will benefit from extending love should not affect our choice to love. Whether we sacrifice for someone, cannot be dependant on what we hope to gain from it. We must also not allow circumstance to dictate our love. We love the person, not the situation. We extend care to the person. That doesn’t mean we like or approve of what they are doing, have done, or how they are living. It does mean that our love is real, not based on their behavior. As we show love to those around us, people will experience the sweet fruit that the Spirit is producing in us and they’ll know who we belong to!

Do you allow pre-disposed notions to determine whether or not you will love someone? Are you more likely to say “hi” to someone who is like you? Do you extend care to people you don’t know? (grocery store, gas station, etc.) Describe an act of sacrificial love that you have observed or experienced. How easy is it to sacrifice for family members or friends? How easy is it to sacrifice for someone you don’t know? Do you tend to do a cost/benefit analysis when you help someone? How do you respond when someone you love disappoints you? How has love been withheld from you when you didn’t behave as expected? (your parents, children, friend…let’s leave spouses out of this one). ☺

Look for opportunities to extend love to those you don’t know, to people who are different from you, to people who have different lifestyles. Pray that God will grow the love in your heart so that you bear more fruit.

Dear Father in Heaven, sometimes it’s so hard to love. I need your Spirit working within me to teach me to see every person as a child that you want to redeem. Give me a heart of compassion and a desire to share your love so that others come to know you. May your love shine in me. In Jesus Name I pray, amen.