Imagine a world without limits. No speed limit: you can go as fast you dare. There is nothing to stop you from doing anything your heart desires. Want to fly to Pluto? No problem. Want to buy a new home? In this world you’re not limited by what you make, choose the house of your dreams. There are no limits, no law. Most of us can see the immediate problem. Without law. Without limits. Anything goes. Anarchy reigns supreme and someone’s going to get hurt or killed. But what if I told you that there is space for exactly that kind of anarchistic, do as much as you want, encouragement in the Bible?
If you are just joining us, this is the ninth and final article in a series on the Fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5:22-23. And yes, we worked backward. In this series, we looked at three things: what does the fruit look and taste like, how can we encourage its growth, and how can we give it away? The fruit of the Spirit that grows in us by walking with Jesus is not only for our benefit but also for those around us. In addition to this article, there is a link to a short story I wrote in 2004 which portrays in some way a Fruit of the Spirit that is being given away.
The final fruit to be considered is love. Now, love is a huge topic and there’s no way that this article or even a library of books can fully cover. If you want to dig a little deeper there is a free Bible Study on Love in our resources section.
What does the Real Fruit of love look like?
The first thing we must briefly explain is that there are many kinds of love. We are talking about the highest form of love, what the Greeks called “agape” love. The Bible often demonstrates agape love as a self-sacrificial, never-ending, God kind of love. I think the best picture is the father in the story of the Prodigal Son. The father never gave up hope, was ready to forgive, and lavished his love when his wayward and lost son returned home penniless, ragged, and smelling of pigs. The son didn’t deserve his father’s love, but he got it anyway. That’s the kind of love being referenced as a fruit of the Spirit. It’s the same kind of love God gives us and we are to give to others. All of the other fruit flow from love. But here’s the thing to remember: Love is not just to be spoken, it is to be acted on. “For God so loved the world that He GAVE…” The real fruit of love is demonstrated by actions. The father in the Prodigal Son gave welcome, forgiveness, restoration, a ring, a robe, and a feast.
How do we grow the Real Fruit of Love?
Here’s the interesting part. We grow love by giving it away in the form of joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Along with grace, mercy, forgiveness, and generosity. That’s why we ran through the list backward. Love is the pinnacle that is expressed in itself and the other eight. Paul said, “Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13, NLT) Love must always have someone to give itself to. It’s not just a feeling created or enhanced by brain chemistry. It is a very real life-changing choice – a commitment. Want to grow more love? Give it all away! Like the widow in the Old Testament whose oil jar never ran out during a time of famine, I can promise you this — you’ll never run out of love if you give it away.
How do we give away the Real Fruit of Love?
There are innumerable ways to give love. Some tangible ways are by sacrificing our time, our resources, our desires, our feelings, and ourselves. But there is a catch, love must be given with no strings attached. God loved us while we were still enemies, knowing that His love for us may not be returned. Love is not loaned out to be repaid with interest. Love is not given on a trial basis, only repeated if someone passes the test. Love is never ever given or withheld to control or manipulate others. And we don’t play catch with it, only loving until someone drops the ball. We must give love away without strings for it to really be love at all. I’ll leave the actual “how” up to you. What’s important is that we freely offer, without reservations or expectations, love to others in ways that are meaningful to them.
Problem and Resolution
Here’s the problem. Whenever the fruit of the Spirit is studied we have a tendency to break it into nine separate and distinct items. It is easy and fairly common to believe that if we have one or more then we’re doing pretty good. Some of the nine items Paul listed will come easier for you than for me. And some will be in my wheelhouse and not necessarily in yours. And somehow we conclude that those are all we really have to worry about. But you see that’s all wrong. The real fruit of the Spirit is not nine things; it is one thing comprised of nine characteristics or pieces. Like an orange, one fruit with many individual pieces inside. The first part of the passage is all singular, the fruit (singular in Greek) of the Spirit (singular) is (singular). It isn’t until at the end of the list that Paul injects a plural, “against these things (plural) there is no law.” The real fruit of the Spirit is all of them at the same time, granted there will be different growth levels, but they all need to be there. We can’t take pride in being good at peace or joy or kindness and totally ignore self-control and long-suffering.
But there is good news yet to talk about! Remember how we started this article? Perhaps you thought I forgot something or that I accidentally goofed up when I copy and pasted. Paul concludes by saying about the fruit of the Spirit, “against such things there is no law.” There is no limit. Think that you’ve grown love or one of the others to its fullest? Think again. There’s always more: there is no speed limit, no ceiling, no limit or law from God placed on love, joy, peace, long-suffering patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control. You can grow as much as you dare and even more. So what are you waiting for? Get growing, living, and giving the real fruit of the Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22–23, NASB95)
The 2004 story about the fruit is called The Helmet. All of the fruit stories started with this one. Betty and I had stopped at an Applebee’s after some Christmas shopping. On the wall across from our table was a white and red football helmet that reminded me of triple practices in the hot summer sun. Click here to read The Helmet.