Fruit of the Spirit
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
Galatians 5: 22-23
For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God, rather than burnt offerings.
Hosea 6:6
Christ is Risen!
Love is a choice. It cannot be coerced. It cannot be taken away. Love is what God desires of us.
You can’t force someone to love. Love is something that is to be given freely. Love is something that is nurtured. It is not “achieved” in one moment. Love is constant work. For instance, in a marriage, there is great love the day a couple is married. But that day is not the pinnacle of love. Nor does love at the altar translate into love for a lifetime. Love has to be worked at and deepened. The choice to love remains just that, a choice, on a couple’s wedding day, and hopefully throughout their lifetime. 
Love cannot be coerced. As we reflected the other day, there is no fear in love. One cannot force someone to love someone else. It is probably fair to say that love is earned. We know that trust is earned and trust is a precursor to love. Love is given by the person giving it. Which makes love a gift. There are lots of things we do under coercion. I may choose to buy gas for my car, but I do it under the threat of being stranded somewhere if I don’t. We may show up for work each day by choice, but not showing up would make us likely to lose our job. So, on a given day, I may “choose” to do things, but many of those choices are under some kind of coercion. Love is a choice each time it is given, and it cannot be given under coercion. Respect can. Obedience can. But not love. It is a choice.
Love cannot be taken away. I can lose my health, my job, or my possessions, but that is not going to take away my ability to love other people. And it certainly is not going to take away my ability to love God. Saint Paul writes in Romans 8:38-39, “For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor power, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  If we choose to love God, nothing can take away that love from us. If we choose to love our spouse, or our child, or a close friend, nothing can take that feeling of love away from us. Even if someone doesn’t love us back, it doesn’t affect our ability to love THEM. 
Love is what God desires from us. He desires for us to love Him and to love one another. God doesn’t desire sacrifices of gifts. He desires sacrifices of the heart. In Psalm 51:16-17, we read “For Thou hast no delight in sacrifice; were I to give a burnt offering, Thou wouldst not be please. The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise.” 
Love cannot be bought. How many people throughout the centuries have built monuments to God, thinking “God must surely be pleased with my sacrifice of money”? Love is something that the heart possesses and expresses. That expression may be through gifts, but love comes from the heart and the heart is known by God. Psalm 44:20-21 read “If we had forgotten the name of our God, or spread forth our hands to a strange god, would not God discover this? For He knows the secrets of the heart.”  Yes, God knows whether our motive is love or whether we are motivated by something else.
There is also a choice not to love. When we are purposely mean to someone else, we are choosing not to show love. We are making a conscious choice in that. If I choose to gossip about someone, then I am choosing not to love. Let’s say that there is someone that I don’t like, or don’t even respect. I may not trust them, I certainly do not “love” them in the sense of wanting a close relationship. But I am still supposed to show love toward them. I should show God-like love, in the form of patience. Of course, this is a tall order, and many people, myself included, fail at this on a regular basis. When confronted with someone who is not showing love towards us, the Godly thing to do would be to show love anyway. 
As with the other fruit of the Spirit, we work in concert with God to develop it. God has shown us how to love. He has given us the innate ability to love. It is then our choice to love, to love God, and to love one another. Love is a choice.
Lord, help me to choose love today. Help me to remember love in my moments of frustration. Help me to love as You love when I’m around others who don’t show me love. Help me to strengthen my relationship with You and with those around me today and always. Amen.
Choose love today!


Fr. Stavros Akrotirianakis

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 multiple books, you can view here:


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