Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Grow in God's Love

A list of the Fruit of the Holy Spirit is found in Galatians 5:22ff. It is a way of seeing all the multiple dimensions of Love. Since Love is the greatest attribute of the Christian life, it is important for us to consider how to get more of it in our lives and how to show it in practical ways.

Many writers have explained the various kinds of Love. We know that God's Love is called agape in the Greek Bible. Agape is sometimes explained as "sacrificial love" or "servant love". One of my teachers said it is "Wanting, willing, feeling and doing the best for another person, under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, with no expectation of anything in return. That is a long and complicated explanation but covers all the bases.

Many years ago the founders of America gave a town on the East Coast a name to inspire the citizens. The name means "brotherly love" and was intended to say, "This is a place dedicated to God's love and loving relationships among the people". Do you know the town that received that nice name? (see the end of the story.)

But the most popular use of Love often has nothing to do with sacrifice or commitment. The term Love to describe a strong liking for things. "I love chocolate" is often heard but that really means hunger and lust. And, when sex enters the scene the term gets all mixed up.

Maybe that is why St. Paul came up with a whole list of things that arises out of God's Love and the presence of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. The list in Galatians 5 includes the term Love but expands its meaning to include peace, gentleness, kindness, patience, joy, self control, etc. By doing this the Holy Spirit inspired writers of the Bible came up with ways to expand our awareness, understanding and self analysis. Whereas it gets awfully confusing to try to analyze our "Love Quotient" we can get a pretty good idea how we are progressing toward loving people when we check ourselves on a scale of self control and peace.

So, take a look at the chart above and use a scale of 0-1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10 with 0 as the worst of anyone you know and 10 as Jesus to assess how you are doing today on the various aspects of the Fruit. Think about your behavior with the family, friends, co-workers and strangers to get an idea about where you need to ask the Holy Spirit to nudge you forward a point or two.
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