When items are listed, often the chief one is first. This may well be true even in Scripture.
In Galatians 5, the Holy Spirit moved Paul to enumerate the fruit of the Spirit. He writes, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” [v. 22-23a].
Did you notice which one led the list? Love!
Why is love important? Isn’t joy from forgiveness, forbearance to withstand provocation, or goodness to avoid temptation as important? While these—along with peace, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control—are part of Christian living, love encompasses them all.
Earlier in the chapter, Paul writes, “For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” [v. 14]. This quote from Deuteronomy places love front-and-center in Christian living. A corollary command—“Love one another”—appears 12 times in the New Testament, three of them spoken by Jesus himself.
However, we would miss Paul’s point if we did not first recognize that love is not in our nature. By nature, we are unlovable. Sin also leads us not to love others. It is “Christ’s love [that] compels us” to love because “he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him” [2 Corinthians 5:14-15].
Love heads the fruit of the Spirit for a reason. It is Christ’s primary command as demonstrated by his boundless love for sinners.
God, give us loving hearts like our Savior’s that reflect his selfless love.
Jim Grasby is principal of Lakeside Lutheran High. Reach him at 920.648.2321 or firstname.lastname@example.org.