Read: Galatians 5:22-23; John 13:31-35

But the fruit of the Spirit is love. (v. 22)

The first fruit of the Spirit is love, which echoes other scriptural references to the primacy of love—for instance, “faith, hope, and love abide . . . but the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor. 13:13) and “we love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

In his notes on Galatians, John Wesley called love “the root of all the rest.” Indeed, it’s hard to imagine any of the other fruit being present without love being there first. When it comes to living by the Spirit instead of living by the flesh, love is first in line for clearing a way toward renewed relationships with ourselves and others. The path out of self-destruction follows the trail of love.

The lyrics of a popular Beatles’ song suggest that “all you need is love.” Well, maybe that is all we need (assuming it’s the right kind of love). But when it comes to the fruit of the Spirit, love isn’t all we get. So much more grows out of love. Divine love generates a more abundant harvest. Think about Matthew’s account of Jesus’s baptism in the river Jordan, where God’s voice declares Jesus the Beloved (Matt. 3:13-17). Jesus’s belovedness blossomed into a mission and ministry that bore the fruit of the Spirit in its fullness. If you’re looking for the Spirit’s fruit in your own life, ask first whether you have embraced your identity as God’s beloved. Yes? Then trust that this love will bring new growth.

As you pray, ask God to continue to develop more love in you.

About the Author

Jessica Bratt Carle lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where she has served as a chaplain and more recently as a clinical ethicist at Corewell Health (formerly Spectrum Health) since 2017. She is a minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA). She and her husband have two young sons.

This entry is part 5 of 15 in the series Fruit of the Spirit