St James, Calgary

Almighty God, you have taught us through your Son that love fulfils the law. May we love you with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, and all our strength, and may we love our neighbour as ourselves; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

May the words of my lips, and the thoughts and meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.

Introduction

What is love?

Those of a certain age have probably just said ‘Baby, don’t hurt me’ from the song, but taking our cue from culture can be challenging, because sometimes Scripture presents a different meaning to us.

That is the case here where Love in the Scriptures takes on a radically different meaning than what we hear on the radio or on television today.

The Nature of Love

One rather obscure children’s author, CS Lewis, wrote an allegory about Jesus in which he illustrates something about the Biblical meaning of love. In the Chronicles of Narnia, Aslan the Lion, the Jesus figure of the novel, holds a meeting with the enemy of Narnia, the White Witch.

In a parlay with Aslan she comes to demand the life of the boy Edmund who had been rescued from her by Aslan’s forces. In their meeting she explains, “You have a traitor there, Aslan… You at least know the Magic which the Emperor put into Narnia at the very beginning. You know that every traitor belongs to me as my lawful prey and that for every treachery I have a right to a kill.”[1]

Aslan sends everyone away and negotiates privately with the White Witch and at the conclusion of their meeting announces that the Edmund has been saved and the White Witch has renounced her claim on him. It later transpires that Aslan has offered his life for Edmund, and that night, after almost everyone had fallen asleep, Aslan slips away and goes to the Stone Table where he meets the White Witch and her forces.

Two of the Edmund’s sisters follow Aslan and witness what happens. Aslan is bound, humiliated, and executed on the stone table.

The next morning, the girls mourn Aslan’s death, but as they turn to leave there is a deafening crack. Turning around they see: “The stone table was broken in two pieces by a great crack that ran down it from end to end; and there was no Aslan.”

“Who’s done it?” cried Susan. “What does it mean? Is it magic?”

“Yes!” said a great voice behind their backs. “It is more than magic.” They looked round. There, shining in the sunrise, larger than they had seem him before stood Aslan himself.

“It means,” says Aslan, in answer to her question, “that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would star working backwards.”[2]

Lewis here articulates a vision of the power of God’s love for us in Christ. Christ’s death on the cross, his atonement for our sins, is an act of love that is at the very foundation of creation. Love isn’t just a feeling we feel. It isn’t just a sentiment. It is what binds creation in its essence. For Scripture tells us God created with intention and love, and sent Christ to redeem us out of love.[3]

It is this self-sacrificial giving that encapsulates most fully what it means to love each other, and to love God.

Call to Love God

In our Collect today, we hear echoes of Christ’s summary of the law: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord, and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength. This is the first and great commandment.”[4] Lewis sums up our challenge, though, when he says, “the hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men.”[5] God’s love for us in Christ is perfect and pure. How can we even come close to that? How can we love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength?

I certainly can’t. None of us can. Not on our own.

God knew that, though, and that is why he sent the Holy Spirit. We have heard in recent weeks, since Pentecost, about the role and activity of the Spirit in the Christian life. Today in our readings, we are drawn to another role of the Spirit: the Spirit empowering us to love.

In our epistle today, we heard that famous passage from Galatians where S. Paul speaks of the Fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.[6]

Sometimes we talk about the gifts of the Spirit enumerated in I Corinthians xii as being the great gifts or the power gifts, but the Spirit’s gift of the capacity to love God, if anything, must be considered the greatest gift of all.

Loving God

What does it look like to exercise those gifts? How do they translate into loving God? There are two places in Scripture where Jesus shows us that the Fruit of the Spirit are how we love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

First, he instructs the Apostles saying, “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”[7]

He exhorts them to emulate his example of giving to others without cost and proclaiming the kingdom of God for the salvation of all people. That was the will of the Father, which he accomplished.

Jesus also famously says, “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”[8]

In both cases, Jesus highlights the fact that humanity was created by God in his own image and likeness.[9] By loving our neighbours, we are loving God through his image within every human being he has created. If God is in all he has made, then loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength must necessarily involve loving our neighbours as well. Most of us will not sacrifice ourselves on a physical Cross, but living out the Fruit of the Spirit is a way of living out the loving sacrificial nature of Christ. Doing so for the love of God is one way that we can love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Conclusion

Living out the fruit of the Spirit means: Rejoicing in all circumstances.[10] Reconciling ourselves to those who have wronged us.[11] Being patient with those who try us.[12] Being considerate and kind to those around us. Demonstrating the goodness of God in all that we do and say.[13] Being faithful to all those around us: family, friends, colleagues, and to God especially.[14] Showing gentleness in all we do for the sake of Christ.[15] Showing self-control over our own passions and temptations.[16]

Living out the Fruit of the Spirit is living out the sacrifice of Christ, because the sacrifice of Christ was an act of loving faithfulness to the will of the Father, and an act of love to all mankind for our salvation.

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

If ever there was a verse to memorise, it would be Galatians 5:22 and the list of the Fruit of the Spirit.

[1] CS Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Chapter 13, “Deep Magic from the Dawn of Time”

[2] CS Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Chapter 15, “Deeper Magic from Before the Dawn of Time.”

[3] Psalm cxxxvi. 5; Psalm cxxxix; S. John iii. 16

[4] S. Mark xii. 29; Deut. vi. 4f

[5] CS Lewis, Surprised by Joy, Chapter XIV

[6] Galatians v. 22

[7] S. John xiii. 34b

[8] S. Matthew xxv. 40

[9] Genesis i. 26, 27

[10] I Thessalonians v. 16

[11] S. Matthew xviii. 22

[12] Ephesians iv. 2; I Corinthians xiii. 4

[13] Galatians vi. 9; 3 S. John i. 11

[14] S. Luke xvi. 10-12

[15] I S. Peter iii. 15

[16] I Corinthians x. 13

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