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The Spirit gives many gifts. How poetic, since he himself is the Gift that God gives to the Son in perpetuity, the Gift he gives the Son without measure (John 3:34). In this series of posts, we’ll look not just at the gifts he gives, but at how each of those gifts is relational and calls us to giving. This again points out the circular nature of gifts—from God to us, from us to each other, from us back to God. “Gifts go round in circles” (Barclay, Paul and the Power of Grace, 22). (For background, check out my other posts about God the Giver and How God Owns by Giving.) We go to the classic text: Galatians 5:22–23. Get ready to soar on the broad wings of grace.

Love Defined

The deepest and greatest gift—the one threaded through the heart of God—is love. What is love? I’ve heard it said that love is wanting the best for someone regardless of whether that involves you. There’s truth to that. The man who lays down his life for his friends (John 15:13) leaves the world so that they can find themselves in it. Yet Scripture has a more cryptic (and potent) definition. Love is . . . God (1 John 4:8). That doesn’t seem to be much of a definition, does it? But think about it.

God is the Father giving himself to the Son, who gives himself back to the Father and Spirit, who gives himself back to the Son and the Father. God is the divine dance of person-giving. Below is a poem that came to me when I was thinking about this one morning.

Son to Father; Father to Son.
Spirit to each, and all are one.
The giving stays. It burns above
As the ever-giving God of love.

The gift of love, then, is the gift of God himself. The Spirit gives us this gift from the ancient dark, the gift that glowed reality into being.

Giving the Gift of Love

How do you know you have this gift of the Spirit? For starters, the Spirit has already told you so. But you also know it more intimately by starting to move your muscles and joints to the melody of self-giving. And we can give ourselves to God in a host of ways. We’ll get into this in the final section of the book. For now, we know that we can give our time and open ears as we listen to others, never saying a word. We can give our effort in making a meal for someone who just brought home an infant. We can give ourselves through words of encouragement and affirmation. Notice that the gifts of love are colored by what they take from us and hold out to another. They are colored by sacrifice. In listening, we sacrifice our speech. In making a meal, we sacrifice the time we might spend on other tasks. In speaking words of encouragement, we sacrifice the desire to have those words spoken to us. Self-sacrifice is at the heart of love, and that’s how you enter the dance.

Love, as the rest of the gifts of the Spirit, is relational at its core and calls us to self-giving. That’s one of the reasons Paul can personify love so easily. “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor. 13:4–7). Do you see how he treats love as a person? That should make some sense by now, since the God who is three persons is also love. And so we see that love, relationships, and self-giving are bound up with one another.

Like this post? You’ll LOVE The Book of Giving.

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