************ Sermon on Galatians 5:22a ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on June 20, 2004

Leviticus 19:9-18; 1 Corinthians 13
Galatians 5:22a
"The Fruit of the Spirit is ... Love"

Warden Kenyon J. Scudder tells of a friend riding on a train next to an obviously troubled and anxious young man. Finally, the boy blurted out that he was a convict returning from prison. His crime had brought shame on his poor but proud family and they had never visited or written him during the years he was away. He had hoped this was only because they were too poor to travel the long distance and too uneducated to write. However, he could not be sure they had forgiven.
The youth went on to explain he had wanted to make it easy for them. Therefore, he had written them, asking them to put up a signal when the train passed their little farm on the outskirts of the town. If they had forgiven and wanted him to return home they were to tie a white ribbon in the big apple tree near the tracks. If they did not want him back they were to do nothing and he would stay on the train, go west, and lose himself forever.
Nearing his home town, the youth's suspense and discomfort grew to the point where he could not look. His friend offered to watch for him and they changed places. A few minutes later he put his hand on the young convict's shoulder, whispered in a broken voice, "It's all right. The whole tree is white with ribbons."
Forgiveness, my brothers and sisters, is one of the best ways to display the Spiritual fruit called love.

We continue our study this morning of the fruit of the Spirit. The life of a Spirit-filled Christian and church and you should know there is no other kind of Christian or church overflows with the Spiritual fruit of love. A Spirit-filled Christian and church cultivates they water and fertilize the seed of new life implanted by the Spirit so the fruit of love grows and blossoms.

I The Example of God in Christ
A The best example of this spiritual fruit of love, true love, is God in Christ. If there is anyone Who is filled with the Spirit, it is Christ. If there is anyone Who perfectly displays the fruit of the Spirit, it is Christ. If there is anyone Who has cultivated love, it is Christ. The Apostle John has this to say:
(1 Jn 4:10) This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

B "But the fruit of the Spirit is love ..." What is love? Love is two-dimensional. First of all, love has a vertical dimension God's love for us and our love for God in response.

Second, love also has a horizontal dimension our love for each other. The fruit of the Spirit that we call love is mostly concerned with the horizontal our love for each other.

Love, horizontal love, is misunderstood and misused today. To some people, it is a feeling that sticky and selfish affection that boyfriend and girlfriend have for each other. To another, it is a Santa Claus type of love that withholds nothing and exercises no discipline. To still another, it is that syrupy-sweet, sugary-coated attitude that sees no evil, hears no evil, and speaks no evil.

What is love? Paul clarifies the meaning and concept of love in our Scripture reading from 1 Corinthians 13. Love, says Paul, is patient, kind, generous, humble, courteous, unselfish, good tempered, guileless, and sincere. This is a love that seeks to show to each other the love that God has shown to us in Christ. This is a love that seeks to imitate God's love for us in Christ.

C "But the fruit of the Spirit is love ..." It is not enough to know what love is. We must also and especially live it.

I want to ask you: is the fruit of the Spirit called love to be found in your life? Do you cultivate love in your life? Don't answer too quickly or too glibly. Think carefully. Do you love? Are you loving?

Generally, we have few problems in loving our friends after all, we have picked them because we like them and they like us and they share our values. But do we succeed in showing love to the ordinary people God sends into our life every day? Or, do we only pick and choose whom to love? Again, do you cultivate the Spiritual fruit of love in your life?

II A Weed and an Artificial Fruit
A "But the fruit of the Spirit is love ..." To cultivate love Spirit-filled Christians need to know a weed they must be on the lookout for. That weed is murder. Like any weed, murder must be ruthlessly rooted out before a crop of love can flourish.
Topic: Murder
Subtopic: Examples of
Index: 2450
Date: 10/1990.6

In Medellin, Columbia, the home base for the billionaire drug barons of Columbia, their most vicious weapons are the cicarios -- hired assassins -- who with shotguns, pistols and icepicks have killed presidential candidates and judges, a newspaper publisher, an attorney general, assorted army personnel and at least forty police officials. These cicarios are children recruited as young as six and trained to be professional killers at fourteen.
Imagine that! Child-murderers. Children trained to kill. How can love flourish in such children?

Too often we wrongly restrict our sense of murder. We often think that murder is the cold-blooded act of slicing open someone's throat, or shooting someone in the back or face. But that is only one form that murder takes. It can take many other forms as well. Jesus speaks to this in His Sermon on the Mount:
(Mt 5:21-22) "You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' (22) But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, 'Raca, ' is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell.

The Pharisees, in their oral interpretation of the law, thought that things were well with their soul as long as they did not commit outright murder. That is how they limited their understanding of the sixth commandment. But Jesus had no such limitations. Jesus said that malice and anger and hatred which all are the root of murder are just as wrong as murder itself. And, Jesus said that calling a man by some contemptuous name like "Raca" or "fool" is just as wrong.

It is easy to pick on the Pharisees and scribes. But before we condemn them we had best recognize we have the weeds of murder in our midst too. Quite often Christian boys and girls pick on and poke fun of other boys and girls and call them names; or, they won't play with them; this kind of behavior, boys and girls, is murder. The use of derogatory terms like homo and queer and wetback is not acceptable to our Lord either; this too is murder. Maybe none of us can conceive of ourselves as committing cold-blooded murder. But we excuse and even justify resentment, anger, contempt, abuse, and an out-of-control temper. Jesus tells us this morning He considers these to be murder. They are weeds we must uproot from our lives if we want to cultivate the spiritual fruit of love.

B "But the fruit of the Spirit is love ..." I said last time that Satan loves to make us satisfied with artificial fruit to keep us from getting the real thing. In His Sermon on the Mount Jesus speaks of this artificial fruit of love:
(Mt 5:43-45) "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' (44) But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, (45) that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.

The Pharisees tried to restrict love by restricting their definition of neighbor. At best, they said a neighbor is a fellow Jew; at worst, they said a neighbor is a fellow Pharisee. As for all others, they are not neighbors. These others, therefore, they are not required to love.

The Pharisees had an artificial love. Their love was limited to people who were like them. This is not the real fruit of the Spirit that God looks for in your life and my life. You see, love is unlimited it is given to anyone, anywhere, anytime regardless of the circumstances.

Again, it is too easy to condemn the Pharisees. But are we any better? Is our love unlimited? Are we able to love illegal immigrants, ex-convicts, drug-abusers, homosexuals, and those with AIDS? Are we able to love those whose viewpoint on women in church office, or Christian education, or styles and forms of worship is different than ours?

III Love in the Home, Church, World
A "But the fruit of the Spirit is love ..." The Spiritual fruit of love should be evident in three main areas: the home, the church, and the world. Let us examine ourselves for the fruit of love in all three areas.

First of all, the fruit of love should be shown, it needs to be shown, in the home.
During a battle in Vietnam, two young men were in the thick of the fight with bullets flying about, shrapnel bursting overhead, and occasionally a grenade exploding nearby. One of the young men, terrified by the situation, gasped, "Isn't this awful?"
The other replied, "Oh, not really. It just reminds me of home."

Marriage counselors say that for every marriage that ends up in divorce there is another one where the marriage is only a marriage in name. Love and communication are gone, but the couple remain together because of social pressures, children, finances, religion, or for some other reason. Their homes become battlefields of individual rights, sometimes noisy, sometimes silent, but always tense.

Quite often husband and wife react to each other and let the other person determine their behavior. So, if the wife is nit-picky, the husband becomes surly and grouchy. If the husband is abusive, then the wife becomes manipulative and conniving. Regardless of our spouse's action, our reaction must always reflect the Spiritual fruit of love. Instead of looking at our mate's personality, faults, and weaknesses, we must look at ourselves and ask, "Do I express the fruit of love in my marriage? Am I patient, kind, generous, humble, courteous, unselfish, good tempered, guileless and sincere?" All of us, if we are honest, would have to answer "No" to these questions.

So, how can we cultivate love in our homes?

The Greek word for the Spiritual fruit of love is "agape." This is a "giving" love. It is a love which compels one to sacrifice for the benefit of the other person. This love seeks to give rather than to get. Agape love keeps on loving even when the other person doesn't respond; agape love keeps on loving without asking for anything in return.

It is "agape" love which allows a husband and wife to clothe themselves with "compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience" (Col 3:12). It is "agape" love which allows them to bear each other's faults and forgive each other (Col 3:13). It is "agape" love which is patient and kind; which does not envy or boast; which is not proud, rude, self-seeking, or easily angered; which keeps no record of wrongs; which does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth; which always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres (1 Cor 13:4-7).

We all, I dare say, want a marriage relationship marked with agape love. Relationships marked with "compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience" are much preferable to ones marked with strife, selfishness, and self-centeredness.

We may want relationships marked with agape love but agape love is not available to everyone. Agape love is only for those who believe in Jesus Christ. "We love," says the apostle John, "because he first loved us" (I Jn 4:19). Agape love, that giving of self for the sake of the other, is possible only in union with Christ. This means, husbands and wives, that yours is to be a Christ-centered home a home in which Christ is Lord, a home in which both of you serve the Lord. That's the starting point for love in the home. On top of this, of course, comes prayer, Bible reading, and worship.

B "But the fruit of the Spirit is love ..." Love also needs to be shown within the church. Visitors and new members and hurting members keep telling me that Trinity United Reformed Church excels in showing love. And, that has been my personal experience as well. But, do we show love to all the members? The best test of a church's spirituality is her ability to love the unlovable. In every church there are ornery, difficult people. These people make it hard for other Christians to love them. It is easy to love those who are popular, pleasant, and kind. It is hard to love the conceited, the unsuccessful, the whiners and complainers, the pushy, the obnoxious. Jesus tells us we have to love these people too and not just those who are our friends. Those who deserve love the least need it the most.

C "But the fruit of the Spirit is love ..." Love also needs to shown in our dealings with the world. We can't go wrong by reminding ourselves of what I read from Leviticus 19.

The Spiritual fruit of love is shown when we have concern for the poor:
(Lev 19:9-10) "'When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. (10) Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God.
The Israelite farmer had to deliberately leave grain and grapes for the poor and the stranger. Likewise, the Spirit-filled Christian and church must provide for the needs of the poor and needy.

How good are we at living up to this? Many today take the attitude you should never stop to help along the freeway. Never open the door to a stranger or let him into the house. Don't pick up hitch-hikers. Don't give money or food to vagrants. What would have happened, do you think, if the Good Samaritan had this kind of attitude? The injured victim would have been left laying, bleeding, dying along the side of the road! Was this Jesus' attitude? I don't think so! Our Savior went out of His way looking for the sick, the maimed, the lame, the bruised, the broken-hearted, the wretched wanderer, the poor and forgotten, the prisoner, and the lonely rich.

The Spiritual fruit of love is also shown when we have integrity in business dealings:"
(Lev 19:11) 'Do not steal. "'Do not lie. "'Do not deceive one another.'"

Moses mentioned more than one case where an Israelite might be less than honest in his business dealings. Someone might ask a neighbor to keep something for him while he is away and then forgets he gave it to the neighbor; the neighbor is less than honest when he keeps quiet about this. An Israelite might take advantage of his neighbor, like Jacob did with Esau. Someone might use brute strength to get his way, as Ahab did with Naboth and his vineyard. Someone might find something that is lost and lie about finding it, or make no effort to return it to his neighbor. We don't believe in "Finders keepers, losers weepers." All of these are acceptable business tactics in a world where might makes things right, but they are not acceptable for the Christian.

Many of you said something to me last time about the illustration of the Christian woman by the stop light who went ballistic when the car in front of her did not go when the light turned green. I have a wonderful follow-up to that. This past week, a white car cut off a dump trunk. When they were at a red stop light the truck driver jumped out of his truck and beat on the hood and window of the car; the two drivers exchanged words. The car then followed the dump truck to where he was loading and more words were exchanged. Another dump truck driver noticed that the license plate holder of the white car said something about the Lord Jesus. He went up to the driver of the white car and told him, "I am a Christian and I notice that you also are a Christian. You should know that the operator of the dump truck is not a Christian and is watching our behavior." The driver of the white car ending up apologizing to the dump truck driver. His love was a powerful witness.

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love ..." A Spirit-filled Christian and church removes the weeds of murder and hatred. A Spirit-filled Christian and church is not satisfied with a love that loves only the lovable. A Spirit-filled Christian and church strives for the fruit of love in the home, the church, and the world.
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