Scripture reminds us that love is patient and kind; that it doesn’t envy or boast; that it isn’t self-seeking…. Scripture also lists love first among the spiritual-life fruit (the produce) that the Holy Spirit grows in those who follow Christ with intentionality. The mystery of understanding God as Trinity is love. God is Love. Love can only exist where there is one to love. Love can only exist in community.
Love is the gateway fruit of the Spirit. We cannot grow in joy and on to peace until we engage the foremost character of God, that God is love. Self-control is the final fruit, not the first; love is the first. Love can only exist where there is one to love. Love can only happen in community.
We all have a selfish, self-centered nature. Scripture describes it as self-seeking rather than others-centered. That nature, our nature, makes loving difficult. God is love but — by our nature — we are not love.
The church – that often despicable collection of self-centered, self-seeking, hypocritical humans – is the specific community that God created with a purpose of fostering love in those who follow Christ with intentionality. Love is the first fruit of the Spirit. Love is the gateway to the remaining fruit and love is the gateway to fruit that remains. Christian community is the place that God created to foster love.
Knowing Christ is a mystery. The closer we come to knowing Him, the more we recognize that we don’t know Him and the more we recognize how distant we really are from the person He is; beginning with love. It is the conflict natural to community that first makes us aware of the sinful nature of others, and then aware of the sinful nature of ourselves, and finally that knowing Christ, truly knowing Him with intentionality, happens as a result of trying to respond inside of community in the ways that Christ teaches us to live and respond. The conflict of community in the pursuit of godly love is the genesis of knowing love and knowing Christ; knowing God, because God is love.
Outside of community, it is impossible to love because love is others-centered and others-centeredness cannot happen outside of community. Outside of a pursuit of the gateway fruit of love we cannot know Christ because God is love.
Christ is incomprehensible to us outside of Christian community; His Church. Knowing Him, with intentionality, happens in community.
Tim Morris is the Director of Ecclesiolae Ministries Foundation, cofounded with Julie Morris. Ecclesiolae seeks to support Christians in their Spiritual Formation, Strengthening Ministry Marriages, and expanding the growth of MicroChurches within MegaChurches. Tim earned a BS in Business Management and completes an MA in Theology, from Wesley Biblical Seminary in the Spring of 2024.
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