A wise man, filling in for our regular pastor while he was on vacation one year, made a brilliant point that I will herein seek to paraphrase and expound upon. In Galatians 5:22-23 Paul lists the fruits of the Spirit:
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
There are nine fruits listed there, all excellent traits for a person to seek to nurture and develop within themselves. One is different though, the first. Love. It is the greatest of the “trinity” of faith, hope and Love, we are told, and indeed, it is used as a descriptor - or rather, the very essence of - God. 1 John 4:16b says without ambiguity “God is love.” I’m sure that is why love was listed first among the fruits. Taking that a step further, you can even say that all the others are intrinsically rooted in love, and impossible to find or receive without it. Love is that powerful. When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, he talked of nothing but love. Love for God with one’s whole being above all, immediately followed by love for others. (Matthew 22:34-40) Of course, the latter is impossible without the former and those two, Jesus said, sum up the entire law.
So, what happens when we let God work through us? When we let God’s love wash over us and fill us, it spills out, like the stream of living water Christ talked about at the feast. (John 7:38) When it spills from us and goes forth, it affects those around us, and we see as their manifestations the other eight fruits - LOVE being worked out in our lives. Paul documents these in the most famous verses about love, 1 Corinthians 13:
Joy. “Love rejoices with the truth.” (v. 6) Love, true agape love from God cannot help but to produce joy.
Peace. “Love does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud” (v. 5) These behaviors and traits do not foster peace, but only division and hard feelings.
Patience and kindness. “Love is patient, love is kind.” (v. 4)
Goodness. “Love keeps no record of wrongs, and does not delight in evil.” (v. 5-6) Does any act show goodness more than we we forgive? And of course we are implored to run from every evil.
Faithfulness. “Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (v. 7-8) As God’s love for us is faithful, unending and unconditional, so should we strive to have the same love for others.
Gentleness. “Love is not self seeking, or quick to anger.” (v. 5)
Self-control. “Love never fails.” (v. 8) If we were to let our humanity rule, our love would fail. It is only through the discipline of constantly being in the Word that we keep the conduit clear, and God's love can continue to flow through us.
This type of love is impossible for human strength to accomplish, impossible for human hearts to live out. But we know that “With God, all things are possible.” Jesus said just that in Matthew 19:26. We must trust in the love of God for us, his children. We must trust in his grace. When we do, we can love and forgive ourselves as well, and extend that love and forgiveness to those around us.
Marriage is a holy institution of God, above all other relationships between people. We can start with our spouses when we rest in God’s love for us. Who doesn’t desire the fruits of the spirit to be abundant in their home? Abide in God’s love, and he will abide in you, blessing you that you might be a blessing to others - to your spouse and family, and as an example to those outside your walls.