The Fruit of the Spirit – Living a Spirit-filled life
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” -Galatians 5:22 (NIV)
Day 3: Love
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” - Matthew 22:36-40 (NIV)
It is not by accident that the first fruit of the Spirit listed is love. A few verses earlier, Paul had written that, “The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Gal 5:14-15) Years before Paul wrote this, Jesus responded to a question designed to test him: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:34-40)
The spiritual fruit of loving others grows out of remaining in God’s love. But if we look closely at these two greatest commandments, we notice that there is a third person we are commanded to love. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” For many of us, loving our neighbor is easy compared to loving ourselves. We say things to ourselves that we would never say to another: “You’re so stupid, so fat, so ugly.” We forgive others for small mistakes, but beat ourselves up over them, days, weeks, and even years later.
Here’s a truth that God has taught me over and over again: I can’t fully love others until I love myself. I can’t forgive others until I have learned to forgive myself. I can’t have compassion for others, I can’t be patient, kind, and gentle to others until I have learned to be patient, kind, and gentle with myself. And I can’t forgive myself, love myself, and be gentle with myself until I start to learn how much I am truly loved by my creator as I am. Any church that teaches repentance of sins without teaching you your value as God’s beloved, perfect creation, whom God rejoices over with joy is not teaching the true gospel. Any Christian that tells you, in the guise of “tough love” that she loves you but you have to change to be fully accepted by her, by the church, and by God, is not speaking the truth. You are fully loved and accepted right now, as you are. And the more you realize and internalize God’s love, the more you learn to love yourself as God’s dearly loved child, the more you will be able to love your neighbor who is also, after all, God’s dearly loved child, too.
Take a few minutes to do this breathing exercise today: Take a deep breath, saying to yourself as you breathe in, “I am my Beloved’s.” Then, as you breathe out, say to yourself, “And my Beloved is mine.” (Song of Solomon 6:3) Breathe in and out deeply, at your own pace, repeating those words with each breath. Then, as you go about your day, look at the people around you and say to yourself, “I am God’s beloved child, and so are they.”
About The Author
Jessica Kantrowitz spent many years in seminary, earning an M.Div. from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and in various ministries to both Americans and international students. When a health crisis coincided with a faith-shift she left her job in an Evangelical parachurch organization and rediscovered her joy in writing. Her work has been published on Think Christian and The Good Men Project and shared widely throughout social media, in particular her essays, Bake for them two and Things I've been wrong about for most of my life, part one. She lives in Boston where she also works as a nanny and an academic editor. You can find her at her blog, Ten Thousand Places, and on Facebook and Twitter.