“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…”
– Galatians 5:22-23
Those who are in Christ are distinguished from unbelievers in that they have been gifted with the Holy Spirit, enabling them to bear fruit. In other words, their works demonstrate the change of sanctification that is at work in their hearts. What are these fruits, how does the Bible define them, and how are they displayed in our Christian walk? This is the first in a series of posts about the fruit of the Spirit, focusing on love, joy, and peace.
The Bible’s definition of love is very different from our world and culture’s definition today. While many define love as romance or a warm feeling, the Bible’s definition is fundamentally active, based not in what we feel, but rather what we do. Love is self-sacrifice, putting others’ needs before our own, following Jesus’ example and humbling ourselves as servants. As the familiar passage states:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” – 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Outside of God, however, we are unable to love perfectly. It is only through the work of the Holy Spirit that we can set aside our sinfulness and our selfishness. Because God has shown us mercy, we are able to show mercy to others; because he has shown us love, we are able to show love to others:
“We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. This is the commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.” – 1 John 4:19-21
Joy is more than a temporary happiness; joy is lasting and based in more than simply an emotional reaction to our circumstances: it is an active choice of attitude. As followers of Christ, we rejoice, because in him, we have redemption.
“My lips will shout for joy as I sing your praise;
my soul, too, which you have redeemed.” – Psalm 71:23
When the troubles of this world assail us, we can rest in the comfort that only God can bring, and have joy, no matter our circumstances.
“When I say, ‘My foot is slipping,’
your mercy, LORD, holds me up.
When cares increase within me,
your comfort gives me joy.” – Psalm 94:18-19
The reason we can have joy is because we have eternal hope in Christ.
This world is full of strife and division, frustrated by sin and evil. As Christians, we are not spared from sin’s effects on the world, but we are able to take our worries to God through prayer.
“Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7
We also are able to take heart in the fact that Christ has triumphed over sin and death. In Him, we have peace in the knowledge that He is in control, and that no matter what struggles we face in this world, we will be granted ultimate eternal peace in Him.
“I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.” – John 16:33