Galatians 5:22 lists the fruit of the Spirit, a list of qualities God grows in those who follow and depend on Jesus. These qualities describe Jesus Himself. Jesus became like us (Phil. 2:7), so we could become like Him. If you belong to Jesus, then you have new life and are being remade to be like Jesus (Col. 3:10; Rom. 6:4; 2 Cor. 3:18; 5:17). The first quality in God’s grow-list is love. Read on to discover what the love of Jesus in your life looks like.
First, there are a few different words in the original Greek that Paul could have used for our English word “love.” There is “phileo,” which is a familial and emotional love. And there is “agapao” (agape), which is unconditional love (no matter what the relationship or feelings). I heard someone say agape has “stick-ability,” you stick with the person through thick and then, whether he deserves it or not. All the New Testament commands in the Bible “to love” use the word “agapao.” This kind of love has also been known as “sacrificial love.”
The love Jesus demonstrates is the “agapao” love. Jesus described the love he had for his disciples and for you: “greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13). Jesus literally died for you, and now God works to grow this quality in you. While you might not die in battle, or on the mission field, you will have opportunity to “lay down” your life. What might that look like?
It is called “dying to self.” It is when you set your preferences aside, and consider others more important. We die to self when we decide that people are more important than entertainment. Parents decide to play a game with their kids instead of veg out in front of the TV. Spouses choose to not complain to others about their partner. You might decide telling someone about Jesus is more important than what it might cost you (reputation, relationships, job). In Philippians 2, Jesus is given as the greatest example of this. He set aside his glory and invincibility as God and “emptied himself,” taking on the form of a servant. He became weak, considered you more important than himself, and died for you. Now, if you follow him, God is growing this quality in you. Following Jesus looks like loving others like Jesus loved you.
Where is your needle on the scale between self-preservation and self-sacrifice? Remember that famous quote from Jim Elliot? “He is no fool who loses what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”