During the years that I was involved in community theatre, I performed in many musicals. I could act pretty well and had a good singing voice, but when it came to dancing, I pretty much had two left feet. My brain understood the steps, but my feet just didn't work along with my brain. I guess you could say that my feet and my brain were opposed to each other. My brain wanted to do the dance, but my feet would just do their own thing. There is a similar battle when it comes to the flesh and the Spirit. In his letter to the Galatians, Paul tells us that the desires of the flesh are in opposition to those of the Spirit and vice versa. And this opposition keeps us from doing the things that we want to do (Galatians 5:17). But Paul also tells us that if we walk by the Spirit, we will not gratify the desires of the flesh (Galatians 5:16).
Paul tells us that the works of the flesh are evident in things such as sexual immorality, divisions, envy, and drunkenness. He warns that living a life in which we continue giving in to these things keeps us from inheriting the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19-21). But there is a way by which we can steer clear of the desires of the flesh and keep in step with the Spirit. That way is by working to cultivate the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. Galatians 5:22-23 tells us that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. While the works of the flesh go against God's law, there is no law against the fruit of the Spirit. Over the next several days, we will take a look each fruit, beginning today with love.
When Paul listed the names of the fruit of the Spirit, he began with love. This is not by chance. In order to cultivate the other fruit in our lives, we must begin with love. Without love, it would be impossible to have joy and peace in our lives. Without love in our lives, patience could not exist, and we certainly would not be able to show kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, or self-control. Love must come before we cultivate the other fruit. Why is love so important? Let's begin with God. Scripture tells us that God IS love. It is central to His very being. Love is the reason that God created us. It is the reason that He gave His one and only Son to die so that we could have eternal life. Without love in our lives, we cannot truly know God or love Him (1 John 4:8).
But our love cannot begin and end with God. We must also love one another. If we say that we love God but we hate a brother or sister, then we are not speaking the truth (1 John 4:20). We cannot truly love God without loving each other. Jesus taught that the greatest commandment is to love God (Matthew 22:37-38). And the second greatest commandment is to love our neighbor just as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:39). When we truly love each other, when we love our neighbor as ourselves, we will be able to avoid the works of the flesh. Love trumps things such as division, envy, rivalry, and fits of anger. If we truly love one another, we will steer clear of the things that go against the law of God, such as covetousness, murder, stealing, and adultery. The whole of God's law and the words of the prophets all rest on the greatest commandments - to love God and to love each other (Matthew 22:40)
Love helps us to keep in step with the Spirit. We should desire all of the fruit of the Spirit but the first one that we need to cultivate in our lives is love.