But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. − Galatians 5:22-23
If you want to know whether God’s love is shining through you, look to see if you are exhibiting these nine characteristics listed in the verse above:
You simply can’t walk in the spirit or be a spiritual person without being ruled by love because it is the foundation upon which all the other fruit rest. The others flow out of love.
Grow Up in Love
Some people think love is so basic, it’s something only spiritual beginners must study. They consider the gifts of the Spirit—like tongues and interpretation, the gifts of healings and miracles—as more relevant to the mature believer. But the gifts of the Spirit are not marks of spiritual maturity. The Corinthian church abounded in those gifts, yet the Apostle Paul referred to them as “mere infants…in Christ…still [unspiritual, having nature] of the flesh” (1 Corinthians 3:1, 3).
As wonderful as the gifts of the Spirit are, the Bible teaches that it’s the fruit of the spirit—“love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, [and] temperance” (Galatians 5:22-23)—that indicate a person is walking in the spirit and not the flesh.
If you want to know whether you’re a spiritual person or not, look to see if you are walking in love. You simply can’t walk in the spirit or be a spiritual person without being ruled by love. I single out love because it is the foundation upon which all the other fruit rest. The others flow out of love.
To find out just how important love is in the economy of God, read the first few verses of 1 Corinthians 13:1-3
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
Love is the bottom line. Nothing counts without it. In short, you and I can’t go anywhere spiritually until we get our love walk straight!
No wonder the Bible tells us to “Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy.” (1 Corinthians 14:1). Living a life ruled by the love of God is what opens us up to walk in the spirit and live in the highest measure of the blessing and power of God!
That’s why Paul prayed that we would be able to know and experience “the love of Christ.” Because then we will be able to obtain “And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.” (Ephesians 3:19).
One friend of mine says that love is the insulator. When we’re walking in love, God can manifest Himself in His holiness and power without blowing us away.
Our Only Law
Under the new covenant, love is our only law. Jesus said, “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you” (John 15:12). Romans 13:10 says, “love is the fulfilling of the law.”
What’s more, when we were born again, God put His own loving nature inside us. Now “the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us” (Romans 5:5).
If you’re a Christian, love is your supernatural, natural disposition. But it will not simply take over your life without your cooperation. If you want to walk in love, you’ll have to decide to yield to that force of love on the inside of you. You’ll have to resist the selfish tendencies of the flesh and choose to live a life governed by love.
Of course, when I say “love” here, I’m not talking about the emotional counterfeit the world calls love. That kind of love is dependent on circumstances and feelings.
God’s love isn’t like that. It’s constant. It’s unconditional. The chief ingredient of the God-kind of love is self-sacrifice for the benefit of the one loved. It continues to love people whether or not it receives a response. Divine love is not self-seeking. It is self-giving.
God doesn’t just love the lovely. He loves the unlovely, too. No matter how bad or mean someone might be, if they’ll turn to Him, He’ll cleanse them and forgive them.
That’s the way God loves us, and that’s the way He expects us to love each other. In 1 Corinthians 13, He gives us a detailed description of that kind of love:
Love endures long and is patient and kind; love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy, is not boastful or vainglorious, does not display itself haughtily. It is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God’s love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong]. It does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness but rejoices when right and truth prevail. Love bears up under anything and everything that comes is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening]. Love never fails… (verses 4-8, The Amplified Bible).
That kind of love is the distinguishing mark of a Christian. We’re called to live a life of love just like Jesus did.
Walking in love means we lay down our own selfish tendencies and desires. We set aside our feelings and behave kindly and gently to those around us, regardless of how they act. We don’t have to be concerned about looking out for our rights because God takes care of us when we walk in love.
Develop Your Love Walk
Making these changes is not as difficult as it may sound. In fact, the key to developing your love walk is wonderfully simple. You do it by maintaining living contact with God—fellowshipping with Him in the Word and prayer, staying in union and communion with Him, and letting His life flow through you.
Jesus Himself taught us the principle of sustained communion. He said:
Just as no branch can bear fruit of itself without abiding in (being vitally united to) the vine, neither can you bear fruit unless you abide in Me. I am the Vine; you are the branches. Whoever lives in Me and I in him bears much (abundant) fruit. However, apart from Me [cut off from vital union with Me], you can do nothing (John 15:4-5, The Amplified Bible).
First John 4:16-17 says it this way:
“God is love, and he who dwells and continues in love dwells and continues in God, and God dwells and continues in him. In this [union and communion with Him] love is brought to completion and attains perfection with us…because as He is, so are we in this world” (The Amplified Bible).
The Apostle Paul prayed “that [we might arrive] at really mature manhood (the completeness of personality which is nothing less than the standard height of Christ’s own perfection)” and that “Enfolded in love, let us grow up in every way and in all things into Him Who is the Head, [even] Christ…” (Ephesians 4:13, 15, The Amplified Bible).
I’ve come to realize that love is the single most important key to growing up in God. In fact, if we don’t grow up in love…we won’t grow up at all.