Fruit of the Spirit: Love

BIBLICAL LOVE (ἀγάπη/agapē) here evokes both of the two great commandments: First, to love God with all your heart (Deut 6:5); and second, to love your neighbor as yourself (Lev 19:18b).

Nature of Love

It’s common to suggest that the very word agapē refers to divine, self-sacrificing love as opposed to philos, a supposedly more human love. But the two terms can both be used interchangeably for either divine love or human love. And in this case, we’re talking about both when we use agapē. On the one hand, this love is “fruit of the Spirit,” so it’s divine; on the other hand, this love exhibits itself among human beings living in a loving human relationship.


Love vis-a-vis the Charismata

Love is especially important in exercising the gifts of the Spirit. Without it… well, Paul isn’t very positive about healthy congregational outcomes. Hence the “love” chapter inserted right in the middle of his most extensive treatment of what the charismata are and how the congregation should employ them. I like how Peterson’s The Message treats this:

And yet some of you keep competing for so-called “important” parts. But now I want to lay out a far better way for you.

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.

If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.

If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back, But keeps going to the end.
Love never dies.

Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled.

When I was an infant at my mother’s breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good.

We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!

But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.” (1 Cor 12:31–13:13, The Message)

A prayer for love…

Lord, grant that I might show forth your own love in word and deed. Not as something I labor at with only my own strength or expect as part of my own human complexion, but as your own fruit growing in me by the work of your Holy Spirit. Amen.


  1. What’s the link between the fruit of the Spirit, love, and exercising the gifts of the Spirit?
  2. What implications can you see in the idea that the gifts of the Spirit must be regulated by the fruit of the Spirit?

Author: Dale A. Brueggemann

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