Real Love: Drop the “But” (Fruit of the Spirit Series)

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Love. Our culture has it wrong.

It is not about how we feel or what we get … or even about what we give. It is about how we give. True love is demonstrated by affectionately giving to others while freely giving up self.

Absorb what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13: 4–5:

“Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy, is not boastful, is not conceited, does not act improperly, is not selfish, is not provoked, and does not keep a record of wrongs.

We quote these verses all the time around Valentine’s Day or at a wedding. But do you see it? Given this definition, real lasting love cannot exist unless we lay aside “us” and pick up “others.” At the risk of oversimplifying, Love is sacrificial caring. 

We cannot be patient, kind, or joyful if our eyes are fixed on us. There will always be someone in our day who takes too long, does something undeserving of our kindness, or throws a wet blanket on our day—sabotaging our love if it’s about us. 


Love As a Fruit

So what does love as a fruit of of the Spirit look like? 

I’m glad you asked. Let’s look to the Author of love to give us an example. 

Of course Jesus Christ is a perfect example of true love because … well … He is perfect and love manifested. Reading and studying Jesus’ life is a great way to learn about love, but sometimes it is helpful to look at someone who is a little more like us—imperfect and sinful. 

Ruth and Naomi

One of the most memorable biblical demonstrations of love for me (aside from Jesus) is found in the person of Ruth. As some of you may recall, Elimelech and Naomi traveled from Bethlehem to Moab to survive a famine. While in Moab, their two sons married Moabite women, Ruth and Orpah. In time, all three husbands died, leaving no male heirs.

This led Naomi to take drastic action—return to her kinsman in Judah. As a widow, little support would be afforded her except by relatives (of which she had none in Moab). 

The amazing thing is that although all of Ruth’s family lived in Moab and she knew no one in Judah, she insisted on making the long, treacherous journey back with her mother-in-law (Ruth 1). This, my friends, is love.

Ruth couldn’t bear to see Naomi make the trip alone. She gave up all she knew and cared for to follow her mother-in-law to a strange land filled with strange people and foreign customs. Ruth had no idea whether she would even be accepted in this new country.

An important distinction to remember is Ruth wasn’t attending Naomi out of guilt or for her own gain or status. No one would fault her for returning to her family. In fact Naomi had insisted Ruth do just that (obviously, she refused). There was no apparent benefit to Ruth’s decision. To many it seemed foolish. To her it was the only choice.

Ruth was bearing the fruit of love! 

No Room for “But”

Okay, how about in our lives?

Now most people would say I demonstrate love. I’m kind and help others. I am truthful. I try to live my life graciously and with hope.

However, those same people don’t see the streak of pride that runs deep and wriggles its way into my intentions. In those recesses of my soul, my actions are spurred on by the desire for recognition. I am the worst at this with my close family—those I live with—because I want appreciation for my sacrifices.

I love my kids, but they should acknowledge my efforts. I love my husband, but he should at least pick up after himself. I’m not saying they shouldn’t do those things, but our action of love shouldn’t require a reciprocal action or be driven by it.  

In other words, in love there is no room for but. 

Our action of love shouldn't require a reciprocal action; in love there is no room for but. Share on X

Impossible? Yes, but … 

As with all the fruits of the spirit, attaining perfection is impossible. Actually, demonstrating any of the fruits, even momentarily, is equally impossible on our own strength.

Isn’t that why Paul refers to them as “fruit of the Spirit”?

Because when you

“walk by the Spirit … you will not carry out the desire of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).

In order to live like “Christ-ians”—to bear the fruit of a love like Jesus’—we need to let the Spirit lead. 

And that, my friends, is the battle of the ages. For humans, living in the Spirit is a war that will not be won until Christ returns and we are whisked into a world devoid of sin. 

But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. That doesn’t mean we can’t become better at demonstrating Christ’s love. 

Exercises To Practice

There are exercises we can incorporate to become better bearers of the torch of love:

  • Be in the Word regularly
  • Pray continuously
  • Check motives often
  • Practice by finding new outlets for loving others
  • Discard the idea of entitlement, and embrace sacrifice (practice leaving out “but”)
  • Remember that each day is a new day to begin fresh
  • Seek to live passionately for Jesus Christ 

Perfectly embodying the fruit of love is impossible; sharing Christ’s perfect love is not. 

Perfectly embodying the fruit of love is impossible; sharing Christ's perfect love is not. Share on X

So this week, join me in letting the Holy Spirit guide our demonstrations of love … without the but. 

Reflections: Have you demonstrated or been the recipient of  Spirit-led love? Let’s celebrate those instances in the comments section this week.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love … ” (Galatians 5:22).

Sorry, this post is twice as long as I like, but. … Next Monday, I will tackle the fruit of joy. I hope you will join me. Consider subscribing to my site (form below), so you don’t miss a single post in this series. 

Linking with Ann Voskamp at A Holy Experience in 2013 for my Joy Dare list  for Multitude Mondays (#1494–1514, read them all by clicking here):

  • Hubby surprised me with Chai tea from the coffee shop; Unique “sculpture” of each dead tree; Day & night to be home
  • Hometown coffee shop w/ great atmosphere & fab Chai tea; Skyping w/ both my college son & my parents; Laughter in church
  • Gorgeous snowfall; Talking to my boy two days in a row!; Building a huge snowman w/ my children
  • A long-distance birthday gift from Daniel; Many birthday well wishes; Attended National Honor Society Banquet for Zach
  • Picked out tile for our kitchen; Taco soup for supper; Richness of Scripture
  • Hours of middle & high school jazz; Time (however short) with a wonderful sister-in-law; With hubby all day
  • Watching The Bible miniseries w/ family; A hike w/ hubby; Critter tracks & signs in the snow

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Also linking with the following wonderful sites:

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By His Grace,



  1. Janis Cox on March 4, 2013 at 12:31 pm

    Just LOVE this. I love your points of how to get to the point of loving.
    Linking in from A Holy Experience. I have a Wednesday’s Word – where you could link this.

    • Julie Sunne on March 4, 2013 at 1:32 pm

      Thanks, Janis! Looking forward to linking up.

  2. kelli woodford on March 4, 2013 at 4:27 pm

    love. yes, indeed. much deeper and harder than we ever would have thought.
    your reflections are lovely. they make me think of how i love and how i fail. and how i’m so glad that His love never fails.

  3. Linda on March 5, 2013 at 6:59 am

    I too,definitely fall short. I like to feel that I am I giving loving person, but what are my motivators? I will try harder this week to let the Spirit lead me..

  4. Janis Cox on March 7, 2013 at 5:41 pm

    Great post. Thanks for linking to Wednesday’s Word. I love that you are counting the gifts too.

    • Julie Sunne on March 7, 2013 at 5:48 pm

      Can’t quit. Counting gifts has added much to my life.

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Julie Sunne

Hello, I'm Julie, an imperfect wife and mother of four. Life in this broken world is not always easy. Yet, joy can be found in each day through the grace and mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ.

I find it's easy for our day's blessings to get lost in its happenings. But God's "mercies never end" (Lamentations 3:22) and His "grace is sufficient" (2 Corinthians 12:9).

May the posts and pages on this site offer you a measure of peace and encouragement.

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