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Love is Our Greatest Protector: The First of Many Virtues (Galatians 5:13-25)

Love is our greatest protector because the love we emulate is the love that we learn and have received from God.

For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, take care lest you be consumed by one another. But I say, walk in the Spirit, and you will not carry out the lusts of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things you please (Galatians 5:13-17).

This passage is not only talking about the spiritual warfare that takes place in the heart and mind of the believer but of physical warfare that takes place between persons and people groups. If we no longer love and respect the Almighty (commandments 1-4); if parents do not teach their children about God (5); if respect for human life deteriorates (6), if the family dissolves (7), if personal property is stolen or destroyed by the people or the government (8); if the truth is no longer absolute (9), and if selfishness runs unabated (10), “biting and devouring” will become commonplace and will consume humanity. The belief in and presence of Jehovah/God is literally lifesaving. He is not a socially created binky for the mindless; He is not one of many, He is the One of one. He is not a localized deity; He is universal and His presence in human affairs is necessary to the survival of humankind. He IS the love who can unite people groups throughout the world. Love of God is the first virtue from which all other virtues originate. Without God, there is no love; without love, there are no virtues. Without virtues, the conscience is no longer the guardian of the soul; the now defiled conscience is the destroyer of body and soul.

So what are these behaviors, distracters from love, which take root in the absence of love and its corresponding virtues? What are the behaviors that cause people to “bite and devour one another?” Fifteen behaviors are listed in Galatians 5:19-21. They are the rotten fruit that comes from a life whose focus is on the flesh rather than on the Spirit of God. They are the consequences of God being denied or ignored. If God is the source of love (selflessness) made complete by corresponding virtues, His absence is the source of selfishness driven by all manner of vice. Tolerance leads to 1) immorality (all kinds of sex outside of marriage, adultery, homosexuality, bestiality, pedophilia), 2) impurity (corruption of all that is good), 3) sensuality (doing whatever feels right), 4) idolatry (worship of anything other than Jehovah, e.g., many environmentalists, humanists), 5) sorcery (a practice stemming from idolatry—witchcraft, Satanism), 6) enmities (things that divide, such as unrestrained or wrongly focused hatred and hostility, 7) strife (sowing discord, contention, conflict, not concerned with getting along), 8) jealousy (misplaced zeal, overly zealous, blind devotion or overly devoted), 9) outbursts of anger (rage, misplaced passion, wrath), 10) disputes (self-centeredness, selfish rivalry, selfish ambition, not hearing or not being considerate of others), 11) dissensions (falling away from another, strong disagreement, divisiveness), 12) factions (different opinions, party, school of thought, no unity), 13) envying (desiring what your neighbor has, ungratefulness, unsatisfied) 14) drunkenness (lack of self-control, not in control of ones senses), 15) carousing (excessive partying, lack of focus, running around purposelessly for entertainment sake), and things like these (See 2 Timothy 3:1-7; people become lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, i.e., they long to satisfy/please the flesh rather than God [Spirit].). All these “distracters” from love escalate under the ruse that is tolerance and leads to horrific ends: the destruction of the family, abortion, euthanasia, social and political corruption, battery, riots and firebombing, domestic violence, rape, suicide, murder, and war. These are the characteristics of a godless society, a society that despotic rulers create in order to establish laws and, therefore, gain total power socially, politically, and globally.

The virtue of love, on the other hand, is expressed through many virtues, such as joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, against these there is no law (Galatians 5:22-23). All these virtues create unity and, by extension, civil societies. The more civil society is, the less law and regulation is required to control them. This is why the Founders believed that religion is central to civil or moral society and why they placed limitation on the government and divided its power into three branches: executive, legislative, and judicial. A god-fearing people, living under the influence of divinely originated virtues are good and decent people. They don’t need to be controlled because God is respected. Without God, a once civil society will begin to follow the vices of the flesh and reap the consequences of their actions. It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of a vice-driven and, therefore, vicious people. This is why Christians and decent law-abiding people must 1) stand and present a sound defense of absolute truth that is divinely ordained and 2) unite with one another. Firstly, He alone is love and, therefore, “the way, the truth, and life” (John 14:6). Without Him, there are feelings of love, truth belongs to the thug with the biggest club, and life becomes meaningless and hopeless; its everyone for himself or herself. Secondly, “No one has beheld God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us” (1 John 4:12). The love between believers is the way people see and think about God. If people complain about not seeing God in this world, the blame may be at the feet of His children who don’t reflect Him in their love of one another: not in their marriages and families, nor in their churches where divisiveness is a regular intruder. Also, too many pastors are forced to leave or become ticklers of their congregations’ ears (2 Timothy 4:1-4). When was the last time you saw discipline carried out in a church? When have all the elders fully satisfied the requirements of their office, which include the ability to teach the Word of God? Sadly, not too often.

Love fulfills the requirement of every one of God’s laws. If believers truly grasp the breadth or scope of love in Christ, they can experience the character of God, His being, His very existence in their daily lives, and have fellowship with God and each other in complete unity of thought and opinion (1 Corinthian 1:10). Connection or fellowship with God is the power of love and unity is the product of love.

Love is unconditional in two ways: it is undistracted: “But God demonstrated His love for us, in that while we were yet sinners (before His children became his own), Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). There is nothing that we can do that prevents Him from accomplishing His purpose for each and every one of His beloved and chosen sons and daughters. Also, there is nothing the world can do that will thwart His prophetic outcomes for each believer or for the world. His love is also unrestrained: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword” (Romans 8:35). God is still 100% committed to loving His children through whatever struggle they must endure in their lifetimes. Unlike human beings, He never holds back or restrains love when His children stumble or suffer setbacks; in fact, He loves them so much that He disciplines them to get them back on track (Hebrews 12:4-12). He does not give up on them.

Love, then, is the foremost and most essential of all the virtues, for from love flows joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, as well as compassion, which we will discuss later in this five-part article. These are the virtues that lead to unity with God and between believers. Even the gifts of the Spirit given to each of the members of Christ’s body, the Church (1 Corinthians 12; see especially verse 25), are hindered when the virtues of the Spirit are not nurtured; fleshly or bad behavior has a grievous effect on fellowship in the Church and on the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30); it quenches His activity in those He indwells (1 Thessalonians 5:12-22).

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