This is one that most guys tend to misinterpret. Now women do this as well but they tend to go in the opposite direction. Allow me to begin by stating what love is NOT! Love is not a feeling or an emotion. At least not on its own. Love has an emotional component but emotion is just that one part of the whole. I would use the following definition to define what we call love: “Love is an act of the will accompanied by emotion that acts on behalf of the one being loved.” I like this definition because it breaks down the word into its key components; the will or intellect, the heart or emotions, and action. But is this what is meant by the word Love in Galatians 5:22?
I would dare say that the definition would be adequate but not complete. When defining love as part of the relational aspect of human interaction the above definition is great but when defining Love as a fruit of the Spirit I think it is missing something. (You may be asking what the difference is. The difference is that there is such a thing as love in the secular world which is distinct from love as a fruit of the Spirit of God. For the secular the definition above still holds true, as it does in the Christian venue.)
The nature of Christian Love is different not just in definition but more importantly in source. Paul’s theology would require him to see the believer as a new creation with a new nature. This nature would produce a different result that the sinful nature man was born with. Much as a tree produces fruit according to the type of tree it is so also should a Christian produce fruit that is from God. What does this have to do with love? Well, the secular definition would work well until the object of our affection did something that we did not like. At this point continuing to love would become a strained thing and at times cease completely. I am not talking about whether this is appropriate behavior or not, just pointing out the facts. Christian Love is not like this. It is not sourced in the will, emotions or actions. It is sourced and rooted in the Spirit of God, who is unchanging.
Allow me to illustrate the point. On September 11, 2001 I watched with the rest of the world as hideous acts of violence were perpetrated against my countrymen. My reaction was not one of being Spirit-filled. Instead I went down to the Marine recruiter and proceeded to begin the enlistment process. Why? I wanted those responsible dead! That, my friends, is not Biblical love. In the following years I have come to realize that I needed to love those who do evil. That is the fruit of the Spirit of God. Do I long for justice? Yes! But I long more for the souls of those who are so desperately deceived by the vile teachings of Islam. I long to see them not merely appeased in their violent pursuits but radically transformed by the power of the cross. In short, God has taught me to love them. I believe this characterizes love as a fruit of the Spirit; it is love that is contrary to the normal human response.