JEHOVAH inspired the apostle Paul to write about nine qualities that result from the action of holy spirit. (Galatians 5:22, 23) Together, these beautiful qualities are called “the fruitage of the spirit.” * (See footnote.) This fruitage is also part of “the new personality” that Christians must put on. (Colossians 3:10) Just as a tree will produce fruit when it is watered properly, a person will have these beautiful qualities when holy spirit flows freely in his life.—Psalm 1:1-3.
The first quality that Paul listed is love. How precious is this quality? Paul said that without love, he was “nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:2) But what is love, and how can we develop it and show it every day?
WHAT IS LOVE?
Even though it is very difficult to explain exactly what love is, the Bible describes how a loving person thinks and acts. For example, a loving person is “patient and kind” and “rejoices with the truth.” When a person has love, he “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” He has deep affection for others, he really cares for them, and he is a loyal friend. But when a person does not have love, he is jealous, proud, indecent, selfish, and unforgiving. Instead of showing negative qualities like those, we want to show genuine love for others, the kind of love that “does not look for its own interests.”—1 Corinthians 13:4-8.
JEHOVAH AND JESUS SET THE PERFECT EXAMPLE OF LOVE
“God is love.” (1 John 4:8) All his works and actions prove that. His greatest act of love toward mankind was sending Jesus to the earth to suffer and die for us. The apostle John said: “By this the love of God was revealed in our case, that God sent his only-begotten Son into the world so that we might gain life through him. The love is in this respect, not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a propitiatory sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:9, 10) Because of God’s love, our sins can be forgiven and we can have hope and life.
Jesus showed that he loved mankind by sacrificing his life to do God’s will. The apostle Paul tells us: “By this ‛will’ we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all time.” (Hebrews 10:9, 10) No human could show greater love. Jesus said: “No one has love greater than this, that someone should surrender his life in behalf of his friends.” (John 15:13) Can imperfect humans imitate the love Jehovah and Jesus have shown? Yes! Let us consider how we can do so.
“GO ON WALKING IN LOVE”
Paul encourages us: “Become imitators of God, as beloved children, and go on walking in love, just as the Christ also loved us and gave himself for us.” (Ephesians 5:1, 2) What does it mean to “go on walking in love”? It means to show love at all times. We do not simply say that we love others. We show it by what we do. John wrote: “Little children, we should love, not in word or with the tongue, but in deed and truth.” (1 John 3:18) For example, we preach the “good news of the Kingdom” because we love Jehovah and our neighbor. (Matthew 24:14; Luke 10:27) We also “go on walking in love” when we are patient, kind, and forgiving. We apply the Bible’s counsel: “Just as Jehovah freely forgave you, you must also do the same.”—Colossians 3:13.
If we counsel or correct others, however, it does not mean that we are unloving. For example, to stop their child from crying, some parents may simply do whatever the child demands. But a parent who truly loves his child will be firm when necessary. In a similar way, although God is love, “those whom Jehovah loves he disciplines.” (Hebrews 12:6) So it is loving to give proper discipline when needed. (Proverbs 3:11, 12) But remember, we are all sinners and often fail to show love. So we all can improve in showing love. How can we do this? Let us consider three ways.
HOW CAN WE CULTIVATE LOVE?
First, ask God to give you his holy spirit, which produces love. Jesus said that Jehovah gives “holy spirit to those asking him.” (Luke 11:13) So we can be sure that if we pray for holy spirit and allow it to help us, we will become more and more loving. (Galatians 5:16) For example, if you are an elder, you can ask for holy spirit to help you to be loving when you must counsel others from the Bible. Or if you are a parent, you can ask that God’s spirit help you to discipline your children, not in anger, but in love.
Second, think deeply about how Jesus showed love even when others mistreated him. (1 Peter 2:21, 23) When someone offends you or you experience an injustice, ask yourself, ‘What would Jesus do?’ A sister named Leigh found that asking herself that question helped her to think before acting. She says: “Once, a coworker sent an e-mail to my colleagues with negative comments about me and the work I was doing. It hurt me deeply. But then I asked myself, ‘How can I imitate Jesus in dealing with this person?’ After reflecting on what Jesus would have done, I decided to let the matter go and not make an issue of it. Later, I learned that my coworker had been coping with a serious health problem and was under a lot of stress. I concluded that she probably did not really mean what she wrote. Reflecting on Jesus’ example of showing love even when provoked helped me to show similar love to my coworker.” If we imitate Jesus, we will always show love to others.
Third, learn to show self-sacrificing love. This is the kind of love that identifies Jesus’ true followers. (John 13:34, 35) Jesus himself had this kind of love, and he set the perfect example for us. How so? By leaving heaven, “he emptied himself” in our behalf, even “to the point of death.” (Philippians 2:5-8) When we imitate Jesus’ self-sacrificing love, our thoughts and feelings will become more like his, and we will put the needs of others ahead of our own.
BENEFITS OF SHOWING LOVE
There are many benefits of showing love. Let us consider two examples:
AN INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD: Because of our love for one another, we know that the brothers and sisters in any congregation we may visit around the world will warmly welcome us. What a blessing it is to know that you are loved by “the entire association of your brothers in the world”! (1 Peter 5:9) We can only find such love among God’s people.
PEACE: “Putting up with one another in love” allows us to enjoy “the uniting bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:2, 3) We experience this peace at our meetings, assemblies, and conventions. Would you not agree that such a peaceful spirit is truly unique in today’s divided world? (Psalm 119:165; Isaiah 54:13) When we pursue peace with others, we show that we truly love them, and this pleases our heavenly Father.—Psalm 133:1-3; Matthew 5:9.
“LOVE BUILDS UP”
Paul wrote: “Love builds up.” (1 Corinthians 8:1) What does that mean? In 1 Corinthians chapter 13, which some call the “Psalm of Love,” he explains how love builds up. Love seeks the other person’s advantage. Love cares about the needs of others. (1 Corinthians 10:24; 13:5) And because it is thoughtful, considerate, patient, and kind, it builds loving families and united congregations.—Colossians 3:14.
There are many ways to show love for others, but our love for God is the most valuable and upbuilding love there is. Why? Because our love for him unites us! People from all backgrounds, races, and languages worship Jehovah together, serving him “shoulder to shoulder.” (Zephaniah 3:9) Let us be determined to show this precious quality of the fruitage of God’s holy spirit every day.
^ par. 2 This is the first of nine articles that will discuss each quality of the fruitage of the spirit.