Jesus is clear in his life and teachings that our love for our God is foundational for living the life he desires for us to live. As I wrote the blog Principles and Practices (November 24, 2022), this is a very primary principle. We will become all he has for us as we first learn to love God with our heart, soul, mind, and strength; and love others as we love ourselves. This kind of love will be seen in our joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control within ourselves and with others.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking, and envying each other.Galatians 5.22-26
The presence of God living in us through his Spirit naturally produces these qualities. In this passage, Paul wrote to remind the Galatians that there was no need for laws or lists of do’s and don’ts, but rather they were to simply love others in this way, nothing else. These first-century followers of Christ turned the world upside down, not by their use of force, power, persuasion, or money. Quite to the contrary, they didn’t have any of these resources; they just lived the kinds of lives that demonstrated the Spirit’s fruit through the way they treated others. They profoundly loved those around them, their enemies, the outcasts, the underserved…like no one else had ever seen throughout history.
Paul wasn’t a Pollyanna as he wrote these words; he was tortured, beaten, and eventually killed for his life of loving others through Christ. He was rooted in reality as he served people who were far from Christ. His faith and life were built on living in the presence of an ever-present God. This faith was not dependent on what happened or how others treated him. Despite what took place or how he was treated, he simply did what his master modeled. He was convinced that Jesus’ life and teachings compelled him to love everyone, and likewise, so should we.
Jesus is quite emphatic when he says,
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”John 13.34-35
Ask people who don’t attend a church to describe a Christian, and I guarantee that most of them will not describe disciples of Christ as those who love others regardless of how they are treated. I doubt they would say that most disciples of Christ even love life. So many Christians today are known for what they are against or what they believe rather than the quality of love they demonstrate. It bothers me how few followers of Christ exhibit these attributes, fruit, or byproducts of the presence of the Spirit within us. These loving qualities simply result from being in a thriving relationship with God.
Many people who are far from the church surely wouldn’t describe what Christians believe as “Good News.” Yet, we call it good news because it is good news! The gospel (which means good news) is that we are no longer bound by the events and happenings of this world but are literally citizens of another world. Our lives should express the fact that we can love God, others, our lives, and ourselves because our love is not based upon merit, ours, or others. No matter what anyone can do to us, we can still love them. No matter how distorted our culture becomes, we can still be people of grace, joy, peace, and contentment.
Life isn’t all there is; we don’t have to have our way or have all our needs met now. We have all eternity to do so. Until then, let’s be people of good news that looks like the good news. Let our lives be lived in such a manner that people will wonder what we know that they don’t. That is the good news…a life free to experience love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control through life on earth.
Who do you need to love today, whether they deserve it or not?