February 14, 2021 Sunday Service Message: Fruits of Love

But the Greatest of These is Love

For many people, Valentine’s Day conjure images of love, hearts, boxes of chocolate and Cupid.  It is most often associated with romantic love between partners.  It is not limited to that, of course.  We exchange Valentine’s Day cards with family and friends and wish one another a Happy Valentine’s Day.

Even though the meaning of Valentine’s Day is not limited to romance, Rev. Joanne reminds us that for some people this day can be challenging.  If it is, we may be using too narrow a definition of love.  She shares with us a portion of a blog written by Unity Minister Robert Brummet:

A few common misconceptions about love:
• Love is an emotion.
• Love must come from another person.
• We are incomplete until someone loves us.
• Love must be earned.  We must be “worthy” of love. .
• Love means getting all your needs met.  (And vice versa)
• Love means you will do anything for me.  (And vice versa)
• There is a “one and only” other person that can give me all that I need.
• Love means being nice; it means never saying no; it means never being angry.
• Love is about the other person.  I love him/her because s/he is so wonderful/beautiful.1

Brummet’s insights are instructive to anyone who may be feeling they are not “loved.”  Rev. Joanne tells us that when Unity speaks about love it is the Power of Love not the emotion of love.  Not the love that comes and goes in any given moment based on how we may be feeling, but the love that is always present, the heart of our being.  This Truth can provide comfort when we are feeling lonely or are separated from those whom we love and who love us.  We are one with Spirit and the very nature of Spirit is Love, and when we know this not just believe it, love is always available to us.

In his essay Social Responsibility, Unity co-founder Charles Fillmore speaks to how God is Love and Love is God:

Now there is a world of Spirit.  A world in which there is a wholeness of everything.  Everything is complete in the Spiritual world.  God created the world and he put himself in it.  Now you will find that John, the Apostle of Love, says that God is love and Man is the perfect expression of God.  Well now, a logical conclusion is we must arrive at the place where we accept as Truth, a fundamental truth of being that Man is Love.  There are twelve manners of fruit that I discern from studying Paul’s exposition (in 1 Corithinians 13):  Patience, kindness, generosity, humility, courtesy, unselfishness, good temper, purity, joyousness, unresentfulness, trustfulness, endurance.2

Although love is not something we can box up and contain or prove scientifically, Rev. Joanne explains, we all know what love is, because we experience the power and presence of love through our interactions and relationships with one another.  And the sharing of love is not just essential to making our lives better, but it was in fact what Jesus called the greatest commandment: 

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.  Matthew 22:37-38

Rev. Joanne explains that this greatest commandment extends to all relationships – family, friends, casual acquaintances, random strangers, people on the other side of the world.  How do we show up as love in those relationships?  Charles Fillmore said that “we will know it when in these interactions with each other we experience the twelve fruits of love.”3

One of those fruits of love is patience.  For the past year, the patience of every person on the planet has been tried by the global health conditions.  Fillmore calls patience a ‘calm confidence.’  Rev. Joanne says that she tries not to get caught up in impatience, wishing that things were different, but to recognize that in this moment she can ground herself in the Divine and trust that the Divine Power and Presence is here and working through this (or any) situation.  She warns us not to confuse patience with a lack of movement or activity.  Rather, it is knowing that even while we have that calm assurance something may be required of us, and when we act and speak we do so from that knowing.

When we are patient and calm, kindness, one of the twelve fruits discerned by Fillmore, will naturally guide our actions and speech.  Honest people can disagree while acting from kindness.  When we are angry or simply passionate about an opinion we hold, name calling to someone or about someone with whom we disagree can result.  This includes name calling not uttered but merely held in our hearts and minds.  When we hold onto such thoughts they can only harm ourselves.  By releasing them, not only do we begin to see our “opponent” as the unique expression of God that they are, but it also allows us to recognize that we too are Spirit expressing.

Fifteen years ago, when I first began studying Unity Principles, I was struck by the idea that all humans are a Divine expression of God.  Raised in a traditional Christian denomination, I was taught that Jesus was the only divine human and that to say that we were anything other than miserable sinners was sacrilege and blasphemy.  Unity co-founders Charles and Myrtle Fillmore studied the Bible thoroughly and did not casually make statements about Truth that could not be supported.  In his letter to the Philippians the Apostle Paul wrote:  “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.  Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God.”  Philippians 2:5-6.  Rev. Joanne tells us that true humility is not self-deprecating, but acknowledging that we are in fact one with Spirit.  To think that we could be independent of God is not humility but arrogance.  This is supported by what Paul told the Philippians.

Known as The Love Chapter, 1 Corinthians 13 is not just wise counsel, but great poetry.  Combining the two makes for pleasant reading, which facilitates easier understanding.  

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.  When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.  When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.  For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.  But the greatest of these is love.

The Beatles were often idealistic in their lyric writing, but were not wrong when the famously penned All You Need is Love.  We do not have to be sitting in a circle holding hands wearing paisley Nehru jackets and bellbottoms to capture the essential meaning of their message.  Love never fails.

Now Go and Be the Light.

Scripture

Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.  Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.  Proverbs 3:3-4

Spiritual Practice

Consider reading 1 Corinthians 13 each day this week . . . it’s a short chapter!  Allow it to speak to you.  Choose one of the twelve fruits of love (patience, kindness, generosity, humility, courtesy, unselfishness, good temper, purity, joyousness, unresentfulness, trustfulness, or endurance) which you struggle to express.  Choose to focus on that one quality this week.  How can you demonstrate it daily?  Make the commitment to be love expressing, even in the most challenging times.

Greg Skuderin

1Excerpted from blog post of July 14, 2019.   https://www.robertbrumet.com/blog/7jd5tayzhj993yaigftjlvmnapend2?rq=love

2Fillmore, Charles, Social Responsibility, August 24, 1919; Collected Writings of Charles Fillmore.  For complete essay click here:  https://www.truthunity.net/archives/3026-27-1018

3Ibid.

Image:  Cupid detail from Raphael's The Triumph of Galatea, 1512.