God is Holy.
God is Love.
Love is Holy.
This is what I call “algebraic hermenuetics.” It is my way of translating scripture using a simple algebraic equation. If A=B and A=C, than B=C. Love is Holy.
This simple truth can and will revolutionize your Christian life if you allow it. In our attempt to live Holy before the Lord… considering the ten commandments and the mosaic law is surprisingly fruitless. Somehow, approaching the mountain of rules given at Mt. Sinai simply awakens and strengthens our sinful desires. It does so because that is what God created it to do.
In our attempt to live Holy before the Lord, we make significant progress and have the most success when we focus on learning and living LOVE. Christ himself stated that above all we should, “Love the Lord thy God and love thy neighbor as thyself, for on these two hang all the law and the prophets.” Focus on the law, and sin is strengthened. Focus on love, and love is strengthened, pushing out sin, and fulfilling the law in each situation it is correctly applied.
Writing from a prison in Rome to the church at Colosse, Paul encourages the Christians to “…put on tender mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering, forbearing and forgiving one another.” (Colossians 3:12&13)
Since this list sounds very close to the fruit of the Holy Spirit listed in Galatians chapter 5… I am compelled to compare the idea of “producing fruit” with the “putting on” of these attributes. As I look at my Bible… it states, as a heading above verse 22-26 the following: “Christian character is produced by the Holy Spirit, not by self effort.” I’ve heard this preached time and again, often also citing John 15:5… When Christ says “I am the vine and you are the branches… and without me you can do nothing.” Many will echo the traditional thought regarding the fruit of the spirit, recognizing the truth that it is not produced from our nature, but from Christ’s Spirit within us. While this idea is certainly true, should it not be equally emphasized that the daily crucifixion of our flesh and the denial of our selfish desires are also necessary so that the fruit may be seen and not hindered in our lives? I think so. Paul makes this very point when he calls the church to “put on” tender mercies, kindness, humbleness, meekness, longsuffering and forgiveness.
Many believers live far below this threshold of expected behavior for the simple reason that they are not being reminded of their duty to die daily. “You can’t produce the fruit, so don’t try” pastors pipe from the pulpit… and unfortunately the “don’t try” sticks with people because it frees them from responsibility. The Holy Spirit produces the fruit; however, we must make room in our lives for it to be seen. Less of me, more of the Holy Spirit. So to “put on” these attributes is a conscious decision, not something that occurs naturally. Living the spirit-led life only happens intentionally. It is a choice. Just as Christ is a gentleman in giving us the choice to receive Him as Savior and Lord, so does the Holy Spirit give us freedom in choosing to express His will. Upon receiving the Holy Spirit, He does not take over our conscious mind, our tongue, or our body. He is simply their to whisper in our ear constant reminders of His fruitful attributes, and producing those attributes, “producing the fruit”… if you will, is a matter of our will.
Consider this thought as we look again at Paul’s letter to the church at Colosse… at the end of the list, in Chapter 3… He says… “above all these things, put on love, which is the bond of perfection.” Again, we see in scripture the “supremacy of love” in christian living. And again, we see the words “put on” being used by Paul to express the truth that our will is involved. God does not override our sinful, selfish tendencies. His grace gives us power to starve them until they are weak and powerless. Love doesn’t flow from our lives automatically or unconsciously when it takes up residence in our heart. Only after the habitual practice of intentionally “putting on love” by choosing to act in a loving way though we may not feel love in the moment do we train ourselves to be “led by the Spirit and not by the flesh”. At this point responding and interacting with those around us according to love becomes easier and easier and much more common in our lives.
The most beautiful truth of this passage is the last four words of verse 14, describing love as “the bond of perfectness”.
The bond of perfectness.
The word bond here translates “uniting principle”
The word perfectness translates “complete moral character”
There is but one principle which when correctly applied in our lives will unite us, (make us one with) complete moral character. The tie that binds is LOVE.
LOVE: The uniting principle of complete moral character.
Learning to live love in every situation will cause us to become united with strong, mature moral values and ethics. Love is the uniting principle, the glue that bonds moral character to us. We are not people of love because we obtain a level of strength and maturity in our morality. We reach higher levels of glory and increase in righteousness and morality as a result of our simple, humble attempts at living love.
It is vital that we don’t get this backwards because to believe that morality can cause us to become a loving person is a dangerous misconception. A moral law, while necessary, is insufficient to move us to love others. It largely monitors and scrutinizes our behavior toward one another to “keep us from sinning against or bringing pain or suffering to other members of the human race”. It does not move us to take action on behalf of others to share and thereby ease their pain and suffering. Only love can do that.
Love will do that…if we “put it on”.
Put it on.
The choice is yours.