“Do everything in Love” – 1 Corinthians 16:14 (TNIV)
As we read in the Introduction, 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). Simply put, we’re called to be Fruitful human beings and a prime way that we’re able to accomplish this is by being tapped into the Love of God (John 15: 1-17 and Romans 5:5 are two great passages of scripture that provide insight about this process).
You may be asking, so what do these ten descriptors mean and how are they important in the process of growing the Fruit of the Spirit? Glad you asked. Dr. Spiros Zodhiates and his team of Biblical Scholars produced the Hebrew – Greek Key Study Bible (1996). In this Bible, Dr. Zodhiates defines Agape Love as being the behavioral manifestation of these 10 descriptors.
Thankfully, I’m glad that God boiled it down to these 10 descriptors, which I’m glad about because it keeps it simple. As I did my study, I reasoned that since these 10 words define what Agape Love is, then it made sense to me to let the Bible also provide definitions of each of the words as well. So in my study, I looked up each of the 10 words as they are found in the Old and New Testaments. What I discovered as I read about the Hebrew and Greek definitions of the 10 descriptors simply left me saying “wow” as I realized from a completely different vantage point how much God loves us.
My study helped me to clearly see how God loves us in such a magnificent and unprecedented manner and I also realized that not only does He want us to thrive in this unique expression of Love, but He also wants us to reproduce this love in a manner that is realistic and achievable for our benefit and for the benefit of others. Up for the challenge? What follows is a brief definition of the first 5 of the 10 descriptors of Agape (the remainder will be in The Fruit of the Spirit #3). I’ve also included a few questions for you to consider with each of the definitions:
The first 5 of the 10 descriptors of Agape:
1. Love: It seems weird that Love would be one of the ten, but it also makes sense because Love encompasses, explains, defines, empowers, qualifies, facilitates and I could go on, all of the descriptors of Agape. When we esteem and cherish ourselves and others, when we respect ourselves and others, when we honor and favor ourselves and others, when we accept and treat ourselves and others as prized people to be relished and deserving of our devotion, then we are practicing Love.
When I think of the core characteristics of God, these 10 simply, concisely but powerfully define who He is, and these 10 are the core characteristics He wants me to benefit from, then provides to others one day at a time. For me, if I could develop these characteristics with His help, then practice these to the best of my empowered ability, then I am experiencing and practicing God’s love. What do you think of these characteristics? How would you and your relationships be different if you sought to practice these on a daily basis? How could these characteristics help to give life to the nine Fruit of the Holy Spirit?
2. Esteem: This action word defines Esteem as the ability to think, to plan and to esteem, however, the core idea is to use your thinking to: (a) become skilled in your art and (b) to develop clever military inventions to protect those around you (please read 2 Chronicles 26:14 – 15 to see how this is described). In this passage of scripture, you’ll see that Uzziah used the best of his thinking and abilities to devise “winning strategies” to do battle against any enemy that would harm his people.
The parallel here is this is what God does for us; He protects us from the Enemy of Humanity (John 10:10), and this protective response is what God wants us to do as well, which is to protect those we love and care about from the Enemy. If an intruder tries to break into your home and bring harm to your family, most of us would move to defend our loved ones. In light of this, I’m sure that our families and those we seek to protect would feel esteemed in light of our actions.
If the intruder is within our own minds (sometimes we do self-harm and fight within ourselves as well don’t we? Unfortunately, we could be our own worst enemies), then Esteem beckons us to use the best of our thinking and our abilities to access and implement strategies that would protect us, rather than harm ourselves. In doing so, we esteem ourselves. Again, others in our presence would see, note and benefit from us doing our own personal work to cease harming ourselves because we have chosen to use our thinking to develop strategies to start loving ourselves. This is what Esteem does. What strategies are you led to developing that would protect yourself and your loved ones from the Enemy, whether it originates outside of your home or if it is currently operating within your own mind? What would you need to change and who are the “teammates” that could help you to be successful in developing the character of Esteem?
3. Cherish: Scripture uses 3 words (2 Old Testament and 1 New Testament) to define and describe what the characteristic of Cherish – Cherishing means, with the first of these words used in Genesis 2:15, which describes the responsibility and role that was given to Adam (“The Lord God took the man and put him in charge of the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it“). Taken together, these three words direct us to use the best of our intellect and creativity to effectively fulfill our responsibility of diligently working in the garden of our life and in our relationships, and as a result of our work, we should expect to witness and be a part of something miraculous.
From this I see that God loves or cherishes me by using His intellect and creativity to make sure I can do the same. How did and how does He do this? Well, for one thing, He gave me a heart that works for 70, 80 or 90 years, and it works so efficiently so that I don’t even have to worry about it giving out on me, therefore I could use my energy to help myself and others in the Garden. He gave me a brain that creates, analyzes, strategizes, reasons, examines, problem solves, teaches, etc., so that I and others in the Garden could benefit from this gift. He supplied me with a Spirit, His Spirit, so that I could feel and demonstrate compassion, love, sympathy, empathy, grace, mercy, kindness and the other Fruit of the Spirit so that I and others could benefit from the work that I am to do in the Garden of my life (I am made of soil mind you – Genesis 2:7-8). He gave me a body with senses and nerve endings in just the right places so that I and my wife could enjoy food, affection, sex and our children and others could benefit from healthy touch, play, recreation, etc.
Taken together, when I intentionally and thoughtfully use God’s gift to me, good things happen and good, productive, fruitful and even things we marvel at or consider miraculous could occur. It will never cease to amaze me how two cells that are united could produce a life 9 months later, whose life or “Garden” I am called to cherish and take care of. This is how God cherishes us, and He intends for me to pass that along. Where are you good at cherishing your personal garden? Where are you good at cherishing your relational gardens (your marriage, family, children, workplace, ministry, etc)? How are you using the best of your intellect and creativity to cherish the ones you love? What changes could help you to be more effective in carrying out this task and in the process facilitate miracles?
4. Respect: This is one of the most important words in the Old Testament. Three significant English words flow from the meaning of this Hebrew word YADA: Respect, Intimate and Knowledge. Yada speaks about different ways that we gain knowledge (through perception, discernment, recognition, insight, our conscience) and how we’re to integrate and use this information to make good and practical decisions that indicate we’re becoming wise or said another way, “skilled at living.”
But YADA also speaks about a “process” of how we grow in knowledge: by engaging in experiences that cause us to know ourselves better (as in introspection and emotional self-awareness), know others better (by asking questions, being curious, engaging in purposeful fact-finding) and know God better (by practicing any of our spiritual disciplines – prayer, study, worship, meditation, fasting, serving, etc).
I think God’s idea is that as we become familiar with this vital information about ourselves, our significant others and with Him, then we position ourselves to be able to communicate this information so others become familiar or intimate with who we are: our identity, our values, our thoughts, our feelings, our needs, our requests, etc. If we know (and share) ourselves with others who demonstrate the same depth of insight and ability to know us, then our vulnerable process creates the opportunity to facilitate closeness and intimacy, which is a good thing. To drive this point home, God wants us to become so close in the knowledge of one another that it resembles the close and intimate connection that describes genital intimacy, as YADA is the same word used in Genesis 4:1, where it states: “Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain…”
So if I’m close and intimate with another, I get to know their strengths, their weaknesses, their hopes, their grief, their passion and their apathy. If I move to love them then more than likely my behavior will be respectful of and with them. See how this works? I’m thankful that God does this with me, and He wants me to practice it with others. This is where these questions really speak to me as well – Where are you close, open and intimate with others? What do they know about you? What do you know about them? What behavior(s) do you practice so that you mutually are vulnerable and get to know one another? What do you do with this information? How does it help you to be more respectful of yourself and of others?
5. Favor: The Old and New Testament words used to describe this characteristic of Love also define another English word we know called Grace. Favor (or Grace) speaks of one’s ability to do well, but also to be pleasing, good, beautiful, excellent, lovely, kind, fruitful, delightful, cheerful, correct and right(eous). Favor is the good and generous gift that a man receives from God when he finds a wife (Proverbs 18:22) and it is the healing agent (good medicine) to the rest of the body if it flows from the heart (Proverbs 17:22).
The New Testament word takes this a step further by encouraging us to use our gift of Favor to create joy, pleasure and delight (in ourselves and) in others, with no expectation of repayment or return, which is exactly what God does freely when He demonstrates Favor and grace to us. We can’t repay God for the abundance that he gives to us, but we can “pay it forward” and demonstrate and give the gift of Favor to others.
Interestingly, King Solomon, the writer of the Book of Proverbs, elaborates in Proverbs 31:10-31, about what the good, generous and practical gifts of Favor are that a man receives from God when he finds a wife (remember, Proverbs 18:22), and subsequently, are the behaviors that he is to reciprocally, and gracefully, return to his wife.
The behaviors that typify Favor are: a noble character (v.10), trustworthiness (v.11), being consistently productive (v.12), being eager with work (v.13), is punctual in providing sustenance (v. 14), is committed and sacrificial (v. 15), is a visionary but also industrious (v. 16), is capable and follows through on plans (v. 17), acquires resources to get the job done (v. 18), is very considerate of the broken-hearted (v. 20), prepares for the unexpected (v.21), supports her (his) spouse in public (v. 23), is creative (v. 24), has developed fortitude and is not easily intimidated (v. 25), is learning how to be skilled at living, especially when it comes to communication (v. 26), is attentive (not idle) to the needs of those living in the house (v. 27), earns the praise of her/his peers due to healthy behaviors (v. 28), is praised for having a vibrant spirituality (v. 30), and receives the appropriate reward for jobs well done (v. 31).
Could you imagine the Favor you will experience when you use your energy to cultivate the Agape characteristic of Favor by engaging in and practicing all of these very doable behaviors within yourself, to be shared with one another? Again, I think this is what God has in mind as He poured out His Favor to us, and He wants us to pass it along to others. So what does the demonstration of Favor look like to you? How are you creating this characteristic in your own life, for your personal benefit? How are you good, pleasing, kind, lovely, graceful, etc. to yourself and to others? What needs to change in your life so that you could practice the Favorable characteristics written about in Proverbs 31:10 – 31?
Please, please remember these are not written to shame nor make you feel bad or inadequate if you’re not practicing them consistently. These are all aspirational qualities and characteristics that hopefully, we’ll cultivate in the different seasons of our lives. Remember, God Loves Us, and He wants us to love and feel good about ourselves, and translate this to others. That’s the goal, aim and purpose here; no shame allowed, as shame is toxic and counterproductive to our growth process. I’ll pass along the Agape Love characteristics 6 – 10 in The Fruit of the Spirit #3: It all begins with Love (Part 2).
Happy St. Valentine’s Day and by all means, create and make a lot of Love!
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