How to Love and How to Be LovedMay 1, 2020 Save Article
The first Fruit of the Spirit is God’s supernatural love. You can’t produce it. You can only allow it to flow from God through you.
Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. (Galatians 5:19-23)
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels but have not to love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:1-7)
Are you a mature, spiritual Christian? How can you be sure? Our Galatians chapter 5 passage above lists nine qualities of the fruit of the Spirit, and first on the list is love. In this study, we’ll learn what’s true and what isn’t about love as a fruit of the Spirit, because it’s not the everyday concept of love. In succeeding studies we’ll look at the remaining 8 aspects of the Spirit’s fruit in our lives, but here we focus on Love.
As we ponder all nine of the Spirit’s fruits, not only will you examine them, but you’ll examine yourself as well. You’ll learn the answer to this question: Am I a mature Christian? Do I bear the fragrance of Christ to a world that’s hurting and searching for answers?
People talk a lot about love—it’s the favorite focus of songwriters and poets—but we know less today about love than any generation since the time of Christ. The word has been so misused and twisted, people don’t understand what genuine love is. Is it oceans of emotions? “Feelings, nothing more than feelings”? An uncontrollable passion? Some have the idea that love just “happens” to us, and we’re more or less victims of it. We fall in love, then we fall out.
That’s not love. Biblical love, God’s love, is not a feeling. It may contain feelings. It may result in feelings. But when the Bible speaks of love, it’s not talking about feeling something. Love is not primarily an emotion, and here’s why: The Bible commands us to love, and you cannot command a feeling.
One reason we get confused about this is because English has only one word for it: Love. But in Greek, the language in which much of the New Testament was written, there are four words for “love” because there are four different types of love. Once you know this, so much confusion about the concept of love will be cleared up.
Let’s look at these four types of love:
- Eros is romantic love, the love between a man and a woman
- Phileo (fi-lay’-o) is brotherly love, friendship love, comradeship
- Storgé (stor’-gay) is the love family members have for each other
- Agapé (ah-gah’-pay) is God’s love—the love He extends to every person
The first three types of love may involve feelings, but no feelings are required for agapé. We’re not studying eros, storgé, or phileo. We’re only studying agapé because that’s the love which is a fruit of the Spirit.
Agapé isn’t something you feel—it’s something you do. Agapé is the love that’s most prominent in the Bible: it’s the way God loves all mankind. God has and does agapé the entire world—look at Calvary. "In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him" (1 John 4:9).
There are five aspects to God’s agapé love:
- Agapé is an act of your will, not an emotion you feel. No feelings are required. It’s something you do. You can command yourself to agapé because agapé is an action.
- Agapé meets the genuine needs of the person, not just his/her wants.
- Agapé is self-giving, self-sacrificial.
- Agapé asks nothing in return.
- Agapé risks rejection. The one to whom you offer agapé just might reject you.
All five of these aspects are found in the most famous verse in the Bible, John 3:16. It tells us:
- God chose to redeem us. He loved us when we were unlovely and didn’t deserve His love.
- He met our real need—we must have a Savior.
- His love for us, displayed on the cross, was the ultimate sacrifice.
- We can’t earn our salvation. “Whosoever” may receive it as a free gift.
- When Jesus Christ came to earth, He risked rejection. Most of the world did reject Him. They crucified Him.
God loved (agapé-d) the world so much, Jesus willingly died for all mankind. John 3:16 is a living portrait of agapé love.
- What is your response to the fact that you don’t have to feel an emotion in order to love a difficult person with God’s agapé love?
- What does the word agapé mean? Thinking of John 3:16, where do you see the five aspects of agapé in this verse?
- Think of the most difficult person in your life. How will the fact that you aren’t required to feel warm fuzzies of emotion toward that person help you act in a loving way toward them?
- What did Jesus say are the two parts to the “Greatest Commandment”? (Matthew 22:37-40)
- What did God say about love in:
• 1 John 4:10
• Jeremiah 31:3
• 1 Corinthians 13:13
• 1 Corinthians 13:1
Storgé and Phileo versus Agapé
Let’s look at storgé and phileo for a moment. It's easy to storgé our precious family members and phileo our friends—those feelings come naturally. God emotionally loves His children. He loves the Body of Christ. He loves you, for you are His child.
When the Bible says “Love (agapé) your enemies,” and “Husbands, love (agapé) your wives,” these aren’t suggestions; they are commands. You’ll be upset or frustrated trying to emotionally “love” your enemies until you understand that agapé requires no emotions.
How is it possible to “love your enemies,” to agapé someone who’s harmed you or hurt someone dear to you if that means you have to “feel warm fuzzies” about them? It isn’t. You don’t. Here’s how you operate with agapé love, the first fruit of the Spirit. Paul mentions: Without emotion, you make a choice. You choose to conduct yourself in a non-vengeful, respectful way toward that person. You have a mean neighbor or co-worker. You do something kind for them. It’s an act of your will—something you do. No emotions required.
When you grasp this, it will be like setting a great weight down. You’ll no longer feel guilty for lacking the emotion of love toward those who’ve wounded you or those you may be justifiably estranged from. Feelings of love are not commanded. You are only commanded to agapé.
- Is this a new concept for you—that God’s agapé love requires no emotion, only action?
- How might it alter the daily interaction you have with difficult people?
- How do you interpret Proverbs 17:17, “A friend loves at all times” in light of this?
I want to show you how to have that agapé love, that fruit of the Spirit.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)
Paul’s Description of This Fruit
The best description of agapé love is found in 1 Corinthians 13, known as “The Love Chapter.” The King James Version uses the word “charity.” But throughout the chapter Paul uses the Greek word ἀγάπη (agapé) for love that refers to God’s unconditional, divine love.
As we study this fruit, I want you to do a little fruit inspecting. See if these ten qualities of love are present in your life. Then you’ll have a better understanding of where you are in your journey to becoming a mature, spiritual Christian. Are these ten qualities there? Let’s check off the list:
When you quit loving, at that moment you become unlike the Lord Jesus.
"Love suffers long and is kind" (1 Corinthians 13:4).
Agapé doesn’t give others what they deserve but what they need. If someone has wronged you, find a way to be kind. You say, “They don’t deserve it.” That’s right. Agapé serves those who don’t deserve it. Do good, speak well, pray hard for your enemies. Jesus said, “But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you” (Luke 6:27-28).
"Love does not envy" (1 Corinthians 13:4).
If you’re an envious, jealous person, it’s because you do not love the person you’re envious of. Agapé rejoices when another is blessed. If I say I love you but cringe when you’re praised, if I think your gain is my loss, I don’t sincerely love you. Proverbs 14:30 says, “...envy is as the rottenness of the bones.”
"…does not parade itself; is not puffed up" (1 Corinthians 13:4).
Agapé enables you to be humble. It doesn’t swagger. Pride and love do not dwell in the same heart. If you’re filled with egotism and pride, you’re hard to be around. You’re argumentative. “By pride comes nothing but strife...” (Proverbs 13:10). Is there fighting and arguing in your home? The problem is ego against ego, self-love against self-love. Agapé quells your pride.
"…does not behave rudely…" (1 Corinthians 13:5).
Agapé gives you the strength to be courteous. A rude person doesn’t know how to think of the other person. This is so unlike Jesus, who was meek and gentle, thinking of others first. Courtesy is love in the little things. If you don’t love in the little things, you won’t love in the big things.
"…does not seek its own…" (1 Corinthians 13:5).
Agapé doesn’t say “Me first.” Anytime you hear a person say “I know my rights,” they’re not speaking from love. When you were saved, you were crucified with Christ. You’re not your own; you’re bought with a price, and He has commanded you to love. When we stop thinking about our rights and seek to bless others, our world will change.
"…is not provoked…" (1 Corinthians 13:5).
Do you have a hot temper? It’s a sign that on the inside you’re not filled with love. If you want to know what you’re full of, just see what spills out when you’re jostled. If you quickly explode, the love of Jesus is missing within. True love is serene love. Agapé is not easily provoked.
"…thinks no evil…" (1 Corinthians 13:5).
Agapé doesn’t keep a record of faults. It’s not a collector of grudges. Sacrificial love forgives, and it costs to forgive. There’s no forgiveness without someone paying a price. If you owe me $10 and I forgive it, it costs me $10, doesn’t it? Bury those past hurts in the grave of God’s forgetfulness.
"…does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth…" (1 Corinthians 13:6).
Gossip is an equal opportunity employer: both genders are equally guilty. A gossip rejoices in something bad and can’t wait to tell it. When someone falls, agapé doesn’t rejoice. It weeps. When you hear of someone’s hurt or failure, if this fruit of the Spirit is operating in you, you’re heartbroken over sin. You don’t overlook it, for sin must be faced, but you don’t rejoice in it.
"…bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things" (1 Corinthians 13:7).
Agapé makes sacrifices. It’s the fruit of the Spirit that, choosing to love, also chooses to suffer. You cannot love without suffering. Agapé bears, believes, hopes, endures. The New English Bible puts it this way: “There is nothing love cannot face. There is no limit to its faith.” When you love with agapé, there will be a burden to bear. But this is the love our world so desperately needs—the first fruit of the Spirit.
- Are any of these ten qualities in your heart? Or does some renovation need to happen?
- Of these ten ways to love as God loves, which one(s) do you know will be hardest for you? Why is that?
- Has this study brought to light a sin you need to confess and relinquish?
Developing Agapé Love
Galatians 5:22 says this love is the fruit of the Spirit. It’s not natural—it’s supernatural. God does it through us. You don’t produce this love. You bear this love, as a fruit tree bears fruit. Jesus didn’t say you’ll produce it, but you will bear it.
I am the vine. You are the branches. Abide in me, and you will bear much fruit, for without Me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)
…the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Romans 5:5)
When we get saved, we’re partakers of the divine nature. The nature of God comes into us, and this love is not the work of the flesh; it is the fruit of the Spirit.
You’ll come to a place where you know you can’t do this on your own. Pray: “Lord, I can’t love like this in my own strength. Lord, love through me. Make me a channel of Your love.” It’s supernatural love flowing from the vine to the branches.
Longing for Agapé Love
Our world longs for the fragrant, beautiful fruit of the Spirit. These ten qualities of agapé love are the way to love as God loves and to be loved. Allow the Lord Jesus Christ to inhabit your humanity and display His deity. It won’t be your love but His love. It won’t be your life but His life. When you begin to live like Galatians 5:22-23, you will shed abroad the beauty, the fragrance of the Lord Jesus Christ.
- What was your biggest takeaway from this section on love?
- Because agapé love does not command emotions, will it be easier or harder for you to love others this way? What do you think about this new definition of love?
- What opportunity do you see ahead where you will be called upon to practice agapé?
Learn more about how to study the Bible with the LWF Bible Study Guide.