But the fruit of the Spirit is love . . .
So begins Paul’s much-loved, nine-item list of qualities that, as a whole, comprise the “fruit of the Spirit.” Paul wrote to the church at Colossae, “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” Paul exhorted the church in Corinth to realize that all the talent, skill, and giftedness in the world means nothing without love. To the Ephesians he wrote, “Walk in love, as Christ loved us.” It is clear from Paul’s writings that the apostle understands love to be at the core of who we are as Christian people.
Many in our world believe that motives are not near as important as actions. Folks suppose that as long as the “right” things are being done, the reason for doing those things does not truly matter. Whether I am taking care of the poor, or helping children, or trying to make life easier and better for someone in another country, there is a prevalent belief that it is only those actions that really matter. I am convinced that the apostle Paul would take issue with this point of view. Even more, I am convinced that Jesus Christ takes issue with this point of view.
To be frank, the absence of love as a foundation for our “good works” renders those works virtually useless (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3). Love is the critical component of our actions in this world. This is why Paul focuses so intently on love. As he wrote to Colossae, love is literally the glue that holds all things together “in perfect harmony.” It is the umbrella over all that we are and all that we do in Christ. If love is not present, Paul says that we are simply an annoying noise, that we gain nothing, and that we are nothing.