Fruit of the Spirit
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
Galatians 5: 22-23
Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
John 13: 34-35
On the evening before the crucifixion, Jesus sat with His disciples and gave them a lengthy sermon. One of the subjects that He discussed extensively was love. Of all the things He had told His Disciples, He boiled it all down to one thing—“Love one another as I have loved you.” Then, He continued by saying, ‘By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
The “trappings” of Christianity are many—ornate churches, elaborate services, powerful sermons, and lots of programs are the hallmark of many church communities. Beautiful crosses, family Bibles and T-shirts with catchy Christian phrases are hallmarks of individual Christian expression. However, Jesus didn’t say we would be known as Christians by any of these things. As a popular Protestant hymn states, “they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”
We will continue to explore the other fruits of the Spirit in coming days. However, the “gateway” if you will, to all the fruits is love. Jesus did not say that others would know our Christianity by our joy, our peace, our patience, or even our self-control. We will be known by our love, and love is the gateway to the other fruits.
Jesus told His Disciples, in the same discourse, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) Jesus continued “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from My Father, I have made known to you.” (John 15:15) Jesus share a close “friendship” with His Disciples. He wasn’t only their teacher, their shepherd and their Lord, He was also their friend. He shared with them not only a God-like love but the love of a close friend. Jesus said that the highest love there can be is to die for a friend, to lay down one’s life for someone else. This wasn’t just a boastful thing to say. Shortly after this discourse, Jesus did just that. He laid down His life for His friends, and for all of those, including us, who came after the Disciples.
Most of us will never be called upon to lay down our lives for anyone. (I am always very appreciative and respectful of the men and women of our armed forces, police and fire department, who put their lives on the line for not only friends but for strangers.) However, we are expected to alter our lives to sacrifice for others. This may mean altering your day to listen to a friend who is sad or visit a friend who is sick. It may mean altering your finances to help a friend who is in need of assistance. It may mean small things like giving someone a ride, perhaps to a place you are already going. There is supposed to be a consciousness of love in us, a natural and instinctive drive to help others, expecting nothing in return. Remember that love is not a feeling, but an action, a choice to take something from yourself and give it to someone else. That may be time, or attention, or some other tangible help.
Church communities don’t only exist to be a social gathering place. They exist for love. They exist to help us learn to love God and each other through teaching. They exist to help us express love for God through worship. They exist to help us spread God’s love through evangelism. And they exist to help us express love for others through community outreach. Everyone who is a member of the church should be involved in all four expressions of love—worship, catechism, evangelism and outreach.
And outside of church, we should practice all four expressions of love on a daily basis—worship (through private prayer), catechism (private reading of the Scriptures), evangelism (whether speaking about God or just being an example of love) and outreach (looking for opportunities to help others).
Lord, thank You for loving me. Strengthen and inspire my expressions of love. Teach me to pray. Pray Yourself in me. Help me to comprehend and apply Scripture to my life. Give me the words and the wisdom so that I may share Your Good News with others. Help me to be an example of Christian love through acts of charity. Amen.
How can people know that YOU are a Christian TODAY? By your expressions and examples of love!
Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website!
Fr. Stavros has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
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