The first “fruit of the Spirit” listed in Romans 5:22 is love. In a recent morning quiet time, this passage convicted me to research more deeply into exactly what is biblical love. Of course, I started with I Corinthians 13.
While it is often used in wedding ceremonies, that is not the context in which this chapter was written. Instead, it offers a road map by which we can live large, have the abundant life.
“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” I Corinthians 13:4-7
In Mark chapter 12, Jesus gives us a new commandment structure. He says that the first commandment is to love God with all our heart but that the second one is equally important and that is to love our neighbor as ourselves.
As if God’s love letter of scripture is building a case, Romans 13:8 tells us, “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.”
It hit me strongly as I noticed for the first time in my reading of this text that the word “another” is singular. Depending upon which translation you’re reading, sometimes “another” is replaced with the word “fellowman” (which is still singular) or other pronouns, but in the overwhelming majority of the translations, the pronoun used is singular.
This is important! Especially because we humans have such a hard time living out true love…patience, kindness, free of jealousy, boastfulness, rudeness, demanding our own way, irritability, keeping a record of every wrong done against us, and all the other things this passage has to teach us regarding true love.
Is it possible that while hopefully we eventually mature into a heart that embraces all of mankind and all of creation, God understands our human limits and says, “Woe! Tap the breaks. Take it easy. Well done my good and faithful servant for you have fulfilled the law by offering true love to just one?”
Mother Teresa often sent seekers home who came to Calcutta to “love the dying”, telling them to “Go love your spouse or the one(s) you live with.”. Perhaps, she understood how we often take flight from the difficult task of loving those closest to us, who see our foibles as well as we see theirs.
Yet running from them, we forfeit the opportunity to learn true love. Perhaps, what we can’t see is that we’re really running from ourselves as we have a hard time holding the pain of how often we fall short in this monumental task. Jelly Roll’s song, “Save Me” expresses the shame and hopelessness many of us feel as we’ve run from this sort of pain. It doesn’t matter if we’ve run by using anger, passivity, alcohol (or other substances), food, or unhealthy relationships. Facing with grace the wounds done to us and the wounds we’ve inflicted upon others is our path to freedom.
I’ve certainly done my share of stumbling, failing, and running. So, I’ve made a commitment to spend a week in prayer (talking to God) and meditation (being still and silent to listen to God) on each of the fruits of the Spirit listed in Romans 5:22: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
I’m taking them in order, starting this week with love. Each morning I’m looking up scripture on that particular “fruit” of the week, and taking prayerful stock of where I failed the day before and where I see growth (not perfection).
I’m using Romans 13:8 as a reminder to be gentle with myself and not nitpick every interaction with every person or creature, but rather, I’m starting with one person. After I go through each “fruit” in this manner, perhaps, I can then broaden my evaluation efforts as to how I interact throughout “Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the world”.
If you decide to embark upon your own heartfelt reflection, I’d love to hear of your commitment and journey. I will hold you in prayer even as I ask the same of you for me.
Love, your sister along the journey,
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