Who  has  not  been  delighted at  seeing  a beautiful tree full of fruit? Whether it is a peach tree or an apple, pear, or orange tree, the effect is the same. We see the trunk, from which various branches grow, and on them tasty fruit, which in turn is rich in many substances that give life and health to man. This is how it is with true love, which has many virtues that are indispensable for  spiritual life and prosperity. The apostle Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians mentions a number of the spiritual characteristics of love, which will be the subject of consideration during this Week of Prayer.

In considering this great reality, the first thing we need to keep in mind is that “love is from God” (1 John 4:7) and “God is love.” 1 John 4:8. The holy Scriptures tell “of His great love wherewith He loved us.” Ephesians 2:4. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16. His love is so great that “He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” Matthew 5:45. His love for human beings is not just for a day or a year, but forever. Therefore, He reminds us, “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” Jeremiah 31:3. What can we say, then, about people who love sincerely and tenderly? “Beloved, let us love one another;… every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.” 1 John 4:7.

“All who have been born into the heavenly family are in a special sense the brethren of our Lord. The love of Christ binds together the members of His family, and wherever that love is made manifest there the divine relationship is revealed. ‘Everyone that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.’ 1 John 4:7.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 638.

“The loveliness of the character of Christ will be seen in His followers. It was His delight to do the will of God. Love to God, zeal for His glory, was the controlling power in our Saviour’s life. Love beautified and ennobled all His actions. Love is of God. The unconsecrated heart cannot originate or produce it. It is found only in the heart where Jesus reigns. ‘We love, because He first loved us.’ 1 John 4:19, R.V. In the heart renewed by divine grace, love is the principle of action. It modifies the character, governs the impulses, controls the passions, subdues enmity, and ennobles the affections. This love, cherished in the soul, sweetens the life and sheds a refining influence on all around.” –Steps to Christ, p. 59.

True love in the human being is therefore not a human product, but is of divine origin. The Bible confirms this by stating that “the fruit of the Spirit is love,…” (Galatians 5:22) and the Spirit of prophecy calls it “the heavenly plant of love.” –Review and Herald, October 24, 1893. So, it is both–fruit and plant. True love is thus not a vague, abstract concept; we can identify it  as  having definite characteristics, including patience, kindness, generosity, humility, honesty, gentleness, mercy, joy, and hope.

“We should manifest courtesy at home, in the church, and in our intercourse with all men. But especially we should manifest compassion and respect for those who are giving their lives to the cause of God. We should exercise that precious love that suffereth long and is kind; that envieth not, that vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,  doth  not  behave itself  unseemly, seeketh not its own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil…. Where Jesus reigns in the heart, there will be sweet love, and we shall be tender and true to one another….” –In Heavenly Places, p. 230.

“Christ’s love is deep and earnest, flowing like an irrepressible stream to all who will accept it. There is no selfishness in His love. If this heaven-born love is an abiding principle in the heart, it will make itself known, not only to those we hold most dear in sacred relationship but to all with whom we come in contact. It will lead us to bestow little acts of attention, to make concessions, to perform deeds of kindness, to speak tender, true, encouraging words. It will lead us to sympathize with those whose hearts hunger for sympathy.” –(Manuscript 17, 1899) Seventh- day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 1140.

Of the many attributes of the Father that Jesus came to reveal, love is certainly the very first that He wants to be reflected in His children and their behavior. Therefore, He taught: “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” Matthew 5:43-48. Remember Jesus’ request to His Father on the cross when He was wracked by pain and suffering at the hands of those who condemned and crucified Him: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34.

The General Conference brethren have chosen  this  wonderful,  inexhaustible  subject for the 2019 Week of Prayer–the unfathomable science that the redeemed will study for all eternity. So, dear brothers and sisters all around the world, let this be the starting daily experience.

“The theme of redemption is one that the   angels   desire   to look into; it will be the science and the song of the redeemed throughout the ceaseless ages of eternity. Is it not worthy of careful thought and study now? The infinite love and mercy of Jesus, the sacrifice made in our behalf, calls for the most serious and solemn reflection. We should dwell upon the character of our dear Redeemer and Intercessor. We should meditate upon the  mission of  Him who came to save His people from their sins. As we thus contemplate heavenly  themes,   our faith and love will grow stronger, and our prayers will be more and more acceptable to God, because they will be more and more mixed with faith and love. They will be intelligent and fervent. There will be more constant confidence in Jesus, and a daily, living experience in His power to save to the utmost all that come unto God by Him.” – Christian Education, p. 57.

“Love must dwell in the heart. A thoroughgoing Christian draws his motives of action from his deep heart-love for his Master. Up through the roots of his affection for Christ springs an unselfish interest in his brethren. Love imparts to its possessor grace, propriety, and comeliness of deportment. It illuminates the countenance and subdues the voice; it refines and elevates the entire being.” –Gospel Workers, p. 123 (1915).

“If we love God with all the heart, we must love His children also. This love is the Spirit of God. It is the heavenly adorning that gives true nobility and dignity to the soul and assimilates our lives to that of the Master. No matter how many good qualities we may have, however honorable and refined we may consider ourselves, if the soul is not baptized with the heavenly grace of love to God and one another, we are deficient in true goodness and unfit for heaven, where all is love and unity.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, 223, 224 (1876).

As we unite in prayer and meditate on this wonderful theme, let us pray that this fruit will be produced in our lives. Sabbath, December 14, will be dedicated to fasting and consecration of our hearts and lives to the Lord. The annual offerings for the   General   Conference’s  international outreach will be gathered in thanksgiving to the Lord. May the Lord bless richly His people through these Readings for the Week of Prayer, and may everyone grow in love in the new year and represent Him worthily.

–The brothers and sisters of the General Conference