Sunday, April 21, 2013

Counterfeit Love

In this series, we are looking at each of the fruit of the Spirit listed by Paul in Galatians 5:22-23. 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
(Galatians 5:22-23)
As I look at this list, it strikes me that each one of the “real deal” fruit that the Holy Spirit grows in the life of believers has a corresponding counterfeit.
The first spiritual fruit in Paul’s list is love. The Holy Spirit grows love in the life of a believer.

The world offers lust as a counterfeit. I’m not talking about lust in the sexual sense, although that is included. Lust is self-focused. Lust is always looking for what the other can do for me. How do I feel when I am with the other?
Lust will do nice things for the other person in hopes of getting something nice in return. When that nice thing is not reciprocated in as great a measure as was hoped for, lust quickly fades away. Lust has no staying power in the long haul.
Look at the “Real Deal”
God’s Word has much to say about love. Let’s look at just a few verses.
Matthew 22:37 - You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.
In this verse, we see that the focus of love is outward. God is the One we are to love. Whole-heartedly. Unreservedly. Unconditionally. Intelligently.
Matthew 22:39 - You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
Whether we think that we are pretty good, cool, worthwhile people, or unattractive, inept, incapable people, we all spend time thinking about ourselves. Whether we actually attend properly to our own needs or not, we probably think about how we should do so…or wish someone else would help us out and make it easier to do so. I think this second of the greatest commandments urges us to get out of our self-focus and give at least as much attention to those around us as we do to ourselves.
John 13:35 - By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.
In this verse, Jesus reminds us that love…His kind of love…is the mark of those who truly know and follow Him. When we love each other His way, it will be unmistakable.
John 15:13 - Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.
When these words were spoken, Jesus had already laid down for a time His right to all the comforts of heaven in exchange for a life in which He experienced hunger, exhaustion, ridicule, threats, and betrayal. Jesus’s love compelled Him to give. Not just to give…stuff…but to give Himself. Jesus went on to lay down His life in the most ultimate way possible. Real love, will sacrifice for the loved one.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8a - Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.

Time for Reflection

  • Take a moment right now to reflect on the 1 Corinthians passage. Notice particularly all the things that love is and does. Notice also what love is not and does not do. 
Did you do it?  OK.
  • Now go back and let’s switch things around a bit. Rewrite this passage making the following changes.
  1. Replace each instance of the word “love” with the word “lust”.
  2. Wherever the passage has a “not” or a “never”, remove it. (“is not jealous” becomes “is jealous”. “It does not seek its own” becomes “it seeks its own”.)
  3. In each phrase that is stated positively, insert a negative. (“is patient” becomes “is not patient”. “bears all things” becomes “does not bear all things”)
  • Now, go back and re-read what you’ve written. Isn’t that a pretty good picture of what lust is actually like? 
Let’s be honest with ourselves, now. Which version best describes me? Which best describes you?

I’m sure at different times of our lives, one or the other is more dominant. We are all in process. Not one of us has reached perfection. We all have room to grow.
If genuine fruit of the Spirit love most often characterizes us, thank God for it…and keep growing.
If in all honesty, we have to admit that lust…by the definition given here…has most often characterized our relationships, let’s choose to throw away the poor substitute. Ask God’s Holy Spirit to cultivate in us the “real deal” of love.

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