The first part of the whole that makes up the Fruit of the Spirit is love. In the original Greek text, this word is “agape,” differentiating it from other more natural or worldly notions of what we perceive to be love. The term agape was rarely used conversationally by Greek-speaking peoples, but in Biblical texts it is used regularly. In the New Testament alone it is used at least 100 times, both to describe the love God has for us and the love we should have towards others.
According to a list compiled by Rex Rouis, love is the 6th most frequently used content word in the New Testament. Outside of name words (such as “God” and “Lord”) it is preceded only by Faith/Believe. Although he does not specify the original Greek or Hebrew terms used in his count, it is not hard to deduce that many of those uses come in the form of agape love.
One of the most helpful resources I have found in delineating the different types of love is the classic text by C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves. Khaldoun Sweis, on his blog Logically Faithful, summarizes Lewis’s take on agape love, or charity, in this way: “This is the highest and most unselfish of the loves, the 1 Corinthians 13 love. Also called Charity. It is not natural, It goes against our very natures. It loves the unlovable, undeserving, the ugly. It gives all and asks for not a thing in return. It is the one that takes the greatest chance. And is hit with the most loss.”
When we think of charity, we think of giving of ourselves, to our own disadvantage, to help others. In 1 Corinthians 13, we read a list of things that agape love is and is not. It is not envious. It is not boastful. It is not controlling. It is not irritable. It is not resentful. It does not rejoice in wrong. It is patient. It is kind. It rejoices in truth. It bears, believes, hopes, and endures all things. It never ends. We see these characteristics echoed in the remaining components of the Fruit of the Spirit: joy, peace, forbearance, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. In fact, if you were to look up synonyms for the words used to describe love in 1 Corinthians, you would see many of the words used to describe the Fruit of the Spirit! In this, we can see that love is the preeminent characteristic of the Fruit, as it most fully represents God himself: God is love. | 1 John 4:8
1 | When you hear the term “love,” what is the first thing that comes to your mind?
2 | C.S. Lewis defines 4 kinds of loves. Write a definition or example of each one: storge (affection), philia (friendship), eros (sex), agape (charity)
3 | Looking at your definitions and examples of the different types of love, why do you think that agape love is what we are called to in order to represent God fully? Consider: agape vs. storge, agape vs. philia, agape vs. eros
4 | List at least 3 ways God has shown you agape love.
5 | List at least 3 ways you have shown or can show agape love to those around you.