One of the outline points of last week’s sermon was “No God Forsaken Towns.” That title is an abbreviated form of a line from one of my favorite songs, “His Love is Always There,” by Carolyn Arends. I didn’t have time to share the song on Sunday, but here is just one of the verses:
There is no heart so lost it cannot be found
There are no hopeless circumstances
There is no such thing as a godforsaken town
‘Cause there are always second chances
His love is always there
No matter where you are
I love that imagery…there is no such thing as a godforsaken town. And, as I pointed out in the sermon, in fact, where we least expect to find Jesus, is often where Jesus most enjoys being, because it is where Jesus is most needed.
What sent Dominique Voillaume to a Parisian park during the last months of his life to minister to outcasts and rejects? Love.
What sent Jesus into the Samaritan village for two days to minister among people who hated, and were hated by the Jews? Love.
What is the foundational gift the Holy Spirit wants to develop in each and every Christian’s life? Love.
When Paul calls Christians to live by the Fruit of the Spirit, he begins with Love. And in fact, many argue that rather than there being nine Fruits of the Spirit, as we commonly speak about them, there is, in fact, only one Fruit of the Spirit: Love. For, in the original Greek, Paul writes in the singular “Fruit of the Spirit,” not the plural “Fruits of the Spirit.”
Really, the way this is written, Paul is telling us that love is the Fruit of the Spirit. All these other virtues are expressions of love. Now, I don’t know if that is right or not, I’m not an expert on Greek grammar. But as I look at the rest of the list, I see the essential role that love plays in all these other characteristics. How can we have joy without love? How can we have peace without love? How can we have patience without love? How can we have self-control, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, kindness…without love?
Love is what binds all these together. It is what makes all of these possible. Now, keep in mind, when Paul writes about love, he’s not writing about simply an emotion. He’s not writing about how we feel about food, or a car, or a vacation spot or a sports team. In our society, we use the word love to express how we feel about just about everything from barbeque sauces to designer clothing.
But in the New Testament witness, love (agape in the Greek) is not primarily an emotion, it is an action. Love is a verb. (Imagine that…believing in Jesus is a verb…and loving is also a verb!)
When the New Testament writers write about love, they say things like, “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son.” (John 3:16) “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom 5:8) “Dear children, let us notlove with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” (1 John 3:18)
If we are going to model a life of love to our world, then we are going to live loving others in practical and tangible ways. It is not enough in our world to simply tell people that God loves them and has a plan for their lives, they need to see the love of God in action. They need to experience the love of God through someone’s generosity. They need to see the love of God flowing out of our lives and into their lives.
The Good News of the gospel is this:
God wants to so radically change your heart,
that you can live a life of love for others.
God wants to so radically transform your soul,
that you have a passion to show love to others.
God wants to so radically transform your mind
that you are consumed with bringing God’s Kingdom to others.
When we submit our lives fully and wholly to Jesus, letting him have control over every relationship, every hurt, every victory, every need, then the Holy Spirit will bring the fullness of God’s love into our lives, and then we will not be able to help, but let that love flow out through us into the lives of others.