The Fruit of the Spirit #3: It all begins with Love (Part 2)
Thank you for reading the Introduction and The Fruit of the Spirit #2: It all begins with Love (Part 1). As we read in the Introduction and in #2, there are nine Fruit of the Spirit (Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-Control) and ten descriptors of Love (a person who Loves, Esteems, Cherishes, Respects, Favors, Honors, Accepts, Prizes, Relishes and demonstrates Devotion).
In the previous post, I mentioned how my study of the word Agape helped me to see how God loves us in a magnificent and unprecedented manner, wants us to thrive in this unique expression of Love and He wants us to reproduce this love in a manner that is realistic and achievable for our benefit and for the benefit of others.
What follows in this post is a brief definition of #6 – 10 of the 10 descriptors of Agape. I’ve also included a few questions for you to consider with each of the definitions.
The remaining 5 of the 10 descriptors of Agape:
6. Honor: I’ve actually written a little about the meaning of this word in a previous post (“Empathy #6: Empathy facilitates Honor”). This characteristic of Agape means you give something of great value to (yourself and) another person, so that they feel valued, impressed and “weighted down” with the goods, property, money and basically the abundance of your gift, so that they in turn feel wealthy because of the actions that you bestow upon and deliver to them.
God honors us by providing to us the most valuable of gifts, which is His Spirit (2 Corinthians 5:5; Ephesians 1:13 – 14). In these passages you’ll see that God’s Spirit is a down payment or partial payment of the full inheritance we’ll receive when we arrive into His presence!
The value of His Spirit is immeasurable and it has many valuable “payoffs.” Some of these payoffs are serenity, comfort and peace when we need it the most during times of grief, heartache and pain. At other times, the Spirit provides to us insight, grace and self-control when we need to think about the conversations and subsequent actions we will execute with others.
In my life the Spirit leads me to make the right decision, at the right time to produce the right words or right behavior to effect the right outcome while also providing me with the reassurance that I need to know that I’ve made the right decision in my decision making process. If I’ve not made the right decision, I’ve noticed that the Spirit provides through my conscience a subtle “tap” on my heart to revisit the issue because it needs more work toward creating these right outcomes.
Here’s an important and practical point about this word though: Although we don’t want to limit God in providing the right and honorable response through us, it’s been my experience that the Spirit does want to provide help in creating and developing the “reasonable response” that is honorable for all involved. Here’s how I’ve experienced His help.
For me, I’ve found that the characteristic of Honor is best produced when I stay connected to God (by working Step 11 or by practicing my spiritual disciplines). By maintaining my connection with God, I find that I am apt to make reasonable and balanced choices and decisions that are good for all around.
When I get out of balance, which usually occurs when I don’t listen to God, then I tend to operate on my own power, which leads me to either overextending myself or not doing enough to “honor” the other person (and myself included) in the right measure, in any of these and other important domains of life: financially, emotionally or physically, etc. So what does Honoring yourself and others look like on a practical basis, so that you and your significant others feel different, uplifted, better and loved? What dishonoring or possibly “codependent behaviors” might you need to retire, because they are wearing you out versus empowering you and improving your relationships? What are the “reasonable behaviors or responses” that you hear God asking you to contribute to others in your life, because they are worth it?
7. Accept: Accept (or Acceptance) is an interesting word (let’s face it, they all are!). There are two Old Testament words that define Acceptance. The first one means to “raise or lift up our face, eyes, voice or soul, then, to bear, carry or carry off something.” The second word describes the process of Acceptance: that Acceptance is only awarded after a thorough testing and proving process where keen observation and careful deliberation has been exercised.
This second word (the Hebrew word Bahar) is used to describe the process that King David took when he picked five stones from a stream that he would eventually use to kill Goliath (1 Samuel 17:40; Of note here is that David did such a good job of “accepting” the right stone after he raised it up to his face that it only took one to accomplish his objective!).
Finally, the New Testament word means “to take and receive deliberately and readily,” as the word suggests receptivity, favor or interest in what is being given to you.
Taken together, these three words suggest that Acceptance is a process and an outcome that we go through, where behaviors are looked at with careful scrutiny. When those behaviors have been determined useful and credible, then we’re encouraged to receive and admit into our mind and heart what we have observed and experienced.
So let’s make this practical. What have you had trouble accepting into your mind and heart lately? Let’s say you have been let down, burned or hurt by a friend (or God) and your ability to trust them has been fractured if not completely destroyed.
Instead of rejecting or writing off the other person or God, Acceptance encourages you to lift up the issue(s) to your eyes where you could study it closely; take a real close look at the character of the other person (or God). If the person wishes to reestablish a relationship with you, are they engaging in behavior that is currently healthy, trustworthy, safe, credible, reassuring, etc.? It’s only after you determine that it “passes the test” and is deemed useful that you are encouraged to reconnect with them and take them into your heart or “accept” them.
The same process is true of God: If you feel He has let you down in some aspect of your life, then I encourage you to take a good look at His character and actions in your life and relationships. For me, hindsight being 20/20, I realize He has never let me down. On the contrary, when I felt distant from God, most of the time it was because of my own undoing, not His. I see (and accept) God in a different light when I look at His behaviors and my behaviors more closely.
So back to the behavior of someone who has harmed us. Since Acceptance is a characteristic of Agape, then we are led to meet the “offender” on a level playing field. We don’t “one-up” or “Lord” over them and make ourselves Judge, Jury and Executioner and make them do things for us to feel better. That is not what true acceptance is. The Spirit would remind us to mutually look for, produce then demonstrate characteristics like grace, mercy or compassion, which facilitate acceptance and reconciliation because more than likely, we’ve cast a similar stone at others in our life and we too have wanted or needed them to accept us again after we’ve offended them. Remember, this is a two-way street: we need to see if their behaviors have changed and are credible and equally, we need to ensure that our behavior is just as credible, healthy and restorative if we want the other person to accept us.
So what person or process do you need to take a closer look at, and upon doing so, would help you to accept them? What trustworthy behaviors need to be part of the equation before you are able to render acceptance to them? What mindset do you have or what behaviors are you engaging in that corrupts or sabotages your ability to either deliver acceptance or, to be determined “credible” by your friend or spouse if you are the one who needs their acceptance? Is your relationship with God any different when you “take Him up to your eyes” and study Him to see who He really is, based on the characteristics you behold?
8. Prize: There are two words that are used in 1 Corinthians 9:24 – 27 that explain this characteristic of Agape. The scripture from the passage reads as:
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize” (TNIV).
The two New Testament words used here are Brabeion and Stephanos. Brabeion has a dual meaning. A Brabeion is the prize or award that goes to the winner of the games, however, a Brabeus (“Bray – be – us”) was the Umpire, Judge or Head official who awarded the prize, only after determining that the contestants followed the rules and ran a valid and certifiable race. Stephanos was the crown or wreath that was placed on the head of the victor, usually by the Brabeus.
The prize or crown that was given to the victor or winner of the race was an ornament and honor bestowed only to one. In the events of the Isthmian games that Paul is referencing, there was only one first place winner, and we could extrapolate with other games, only one gold medal winner and only one blue ribbon winner. Only one person won the first place prize.
Taken together, these two words that describe this characteristic of Agape demonstrate that God’s crowning achievement, men and women, receive the first place prize (and are subsequently encouraged to give the first place prize to others as well). We are the ones in His creation who get to walk on two legs versus four, we are the ones endowed with a full range of emotions and higher reasoning to boot, and we are the ones that are able to appreciate and enjoy all of His creation in full. Human beings are the recipient of the first place prize given to us by God (Psalm 107:31, Psalm 139:14-15).
So the question arises, how do we value ourselves and eventually our loved ones, with blue ribbon, gold medal or first place activities and effort? How do we take care of and honor our own body, mind and spirit, so that with God’s help, we are able to produce the sweetest and fruitful behavior you could produce? How do we prize or love ourselves? How do we prize and honor others in our relationships, so that our wife, husband, family members and other close “neighbors” know that they are highly valued and are receiving the best (within our human capability) of our effort (Ephesians 2:10)?
Keep in mind the aspirational nature of this aspect of Love: As much as we try, our demonstration of Love may not produce a gold medal during “every race,” however that doesn’t mean we can’t strive to hit targets and give our best on a daily basis. Some Olympians give their very best over a 4 year training period for a race that’s only 10 seconds long. Like you, I am challenged by this word to produce good works consistently, and I’m thankful that I have a strong God who empowers me along the way, but more importantly who congratulates me at the finish line each day due to the effort given to Him and others!
9. Relish: To define this characteristic of Agape we return to a previous word used to define Acceptance (“Nasa”). Nasa means “to raise or lift up one’s face, eyes, voice or soul, and to bear, carry, or carry off something.” Nepes, another important word in the Bible, defines our breath, life, or that immaterial part of ourselves that we call our soul. To the Hebrews, Nepes is the “passionate existence” of an individual, and is used to describe our appetite, our craving, our desire and that which we take and receive delight in, whether the delight or craving is directed toward God (Psalm 42:1-2), or for the “soul mate” your heart desires to love (Song of Songs 3:1–4).
Practically, and on the lighter side, relish, or that which is sweet, savory, appetizing and is the pleasurable appreciation of anything, is not too far from the deeper meaning of the word.
When you relish something, you are simply focusing your life energy and your passion, toward that which you crave or feel passionate about, with your enjoyment being a result of your behavior. Your passion could be directed toward God or man, husband or wife, addiction or sobriety, a hamburger or a milkshake.
I describe addiction as the misplacement of your passion (your energy, your resolve, your best decision making), while recovery reflects the accurate placement of your passion. The question is, who or whom will you direct your soul or passion toward, not to mention your heart, your mind and your strength to drive home the point that you are passionately interested in them (Deuteronomy 6:5; Matthew 22:37; Luke 10:27)?
If you’ve allowed something other than your loved one(s) to usurp your energy, especially your sexual energy, then this descriptor of Agape encourages you to reclaim, redeem and refocus your energy back toward the one who deserves it (or, to develop it if it has been suppressed or stolen from you – Jeremiah 4:30). Refocusing your desire toward the one who shares your wedding anniversary and learning to use your creativity to cultivate healthy and passionate sexual encounters that leave you relishing what you have, and wanting more, is the idea behind Relish and is a prime aspect of what cultivating love and “life in the ring” is all about.
Remember what we discovered in the fourth descriptor of Agape (Respect); transferring knowledge to each other facilitates intimacy and respect. When you talk about what brings pleasure and connection to each of you, especially pleasure behind your bedroom door, and when you discover what brings pleasure and connection to your spouse and become committed to this part of your growth process, then you are accurately placing your passion in the ring and are well on your way to cultivating behaviors that reignite intimacy, recreates healthy bonds and of course, cultivates a passionate love for each other. As you engage in activity like this, you are igniting or re-igniting passion that is described by the word Relish. Sweet, isn’t it?
So what has slipped into your life and caused you to misplace your desire away from the one who gets the blue ribbon, first place and gold medal? What will you need to revise or surrender, in order to cultivate sweet behavior and experiences in the garden of your love (Song of Songs 4 – 5). What characteristics, values and boundaries will you focus on in order to become proficient in creating the characteristic defined as Relish?
10. Devotion: Devotion, the tenth characteristic of Agape, is defined by an Old Testament and New Testament word.
In the Old Testament, the definition of the word Kun encourages us to be ready, prepared, firm, steadfast, faithful, reliable and certain. Kun also speaks to a person working to bring something into existence (i.e., a meal or your spiritual growth), and describes the actual preparation for that event. Kun is also the personal satisfaction that a person receives when they know that their heart is devoted to God, and God is directing his or her path in life.
You’ll find Scholazo in the New Testament and when you pronounce Scholazo, you may hear the English words Scholar, and School, which also originate from the word. Scholazo means to devote oneself to something, a task or a process. A scholar is a person who is highly educated or has an aptitude for study, and as a reflection of his or her devotion, is recognized as a specialist in a given branch of knowledge.
Taken together two these words describe Devotion as a disciplined, rigorous and involved process of personal learning and preparation, in order for you to create something that gives you distinguishable credibility upon its completion. When others observe the outcome of your work that represents your devotion, the “WOW,” factor is probably the first thing that comes to their mind and more than likely the first words that roll off of their lips.
When you think about God and how you have seen God show up in your life, what “wow” statements come to mind? Was it a beautiful sunset at a beach, a drive through the mountains, a photo safari in Africa? Did those experiences of viewing God’s handiwork cause you to say wow? Perhaps your wow moment came on the day of your conversion, or on your first date, finishing an Undergraduate, Master’s or Doctoral project, or on the birthdates of your child(dren). Did you say wow then because of your hard work and devotion, and because God co-created with you to create someone or something very beautiful and meaningful in your life?
What experience have you yet to cultivate and develop, that you’ll want to devote time, energy and effort to because it is a dream reclaimed or a vision to materialize? Will the result and outcome of your work be such that it leaves others mentally and literally applauding you for your commitment and devotion to deliver the spectacular? What is the project, deed, value or experience that you wish to devote your life and time to?
Remember, we’re not talking about perfection, but we are talking about your engagement in a process of work to generate something of meaning, worth and of value; simply a reflection of your devotion, and your love, to yourself and to another. That’s what God has done for us, and what He endeavors for us to create and offer to others.
Thank you for reading about these 10 characteristics of Love. These characteristics motivate, empower, fertilize, facilitate and give life to the other 8 Fruit of the Spirit. The next one we’ll look at is “The Fruit of the Spirit #4: Joy.”
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