Love as the First Fruit
"The fruit of the Spirit," says the apostle Paul, "is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, temperance"—all the things the world most needs. I do not think Paul arranged his list of the fruits of the Spirit in a casual order. They represent a progressive series from one point, and that point is love, the living, eternal seed from which all grow.
We all know that Christians are baptized "into a life summed up in love," even though we have to spend the rest of our own lives learning how to do it. Love, therefore, is the budding-point from which all the rest come: that tender, cherishing attitude; that unlimited self-forgetfulness, generosity and kindness which is the attitude of God to all His creatures; and so must be the attitude toward them that His Spirit brings forth in us.
To be unloving is to be out of touch with God. So the generous, cherishing divine love, the indiscriminate delight in others, just or unjust, must be our model too. To come down to brass tacks, God loves the horrid man at the fish shop and the tiresome woman in the next flat and the disappointing Vicar and the contractor who has cut down the row of trees we loved to build a row of revolting bungalows.
God loves, not tolerates, these wayward, half-grown, self-centered spirits and seeks without ceasing to draw them into His love. And the first-fruit of His indwelling presence, the first sign that we are on His side and He on ours, must be at least a tiny bud of this love breaking the hard and rigid outline of our lives.
Evelyn Underhill (1875-1941) was one of the greatest mystical and devotional writers of the Anglican Church.
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