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Leading Question: When Scripture commands us to love God and love others, including the unlovely, is that something we can choose to do, or is such love simply a gift of God?

In his little book, The Four Loves, Lewis discusses four different kinds of love, three of them human: Affection, Friendship, and Eros; one of them divine: charity (agape). The New Testament focuses on agape (charity) and philia (friendship), and lists agape under the heading of “fruit of the Spirit.”

1. Why would the New Testament admonish us to emulate agape, but not the more human loves of affection, friendship, and eros? How can we define and illustrate agape in practical terms? Is the story of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) helpful in this respect? Jesus told that story in connection with the question of how one is to love one’s neighbor. Can we expect such love to be spontaneous or is it an act of the will?

2. Is it possible that the three kinds of human love can be overdone, but not agape? Among the traits listed under the “fruit of the spirit” are some that could possibly be inappropriately taken to extremes – perhaps joy, patience, kindness, gentleness. Is it possible to carry agape to an extreme as well?

3. If love is something that we are expected to acquire and express, just how does the believer go about it? Does human effort have anything to do with it?

4. Freedom and Love. In the full context of Galatians 5:13-26, the passage that presents the fruit of the Spirit, freedom and love are brought together in 5:13-14. Also, in 5:16-18, being led by the Spirit seems to point to freedom from the condemnation of law. Does this suggest that when love becomes a full part of our live, it springs forth spontaneously? Or will it always have the characteristic of a “willed” response to our human circumstances?

5. What happens to the believer if one falls short of exhibiting love? Given our human sinfulness, won’t we always fall short of the mark? In Steps to Christ Ellen White reminds us that “the closer you come to Jesus , the more faulty you will appear in your own eyes” (p. 64). In this life of sin, can we expect or hope for the spontaneity promised by Jeremiah in his vision of the new covenant (Jer. 31:31-34)?

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