HOW DEEP IS YOUR LOVE? 1 Peter 1:22-25, August 6th, 2020
Reflection | So far in his letter, Peter has recounted the great blessings of our “new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (verse 3). Chief among these blessings are the assurance and the joy we have in the incorruptibility of God’s gracious promises to us. Peter then begins to unpack the “therefore” or the “so what” of such privileges in terms of the way we live our lives.
What he outlines centers around a single idea, being holy or more pointedly becoming whole – all we are created to be in and through Christ. While we are called to be responsive to the grace we are given, we can only live responsibly – growing and maturing in our faith – by abiding in the work of the Spirit. To put this another way, Peter’s imperatives, the commands in this letter, always rest on the indicatives – what Christ has done and what the Spirit continues to do in and through us. This is vital to understand as we close out this chapter by listening to Peter continue to exhort us to obedience.
Case in point as Paul writes “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth” (verse 22). On the one hand, Peter affirms that our obedience to the truth – following Jesus – has a cleansing effect on our lives. When Christ remains at the center of our being, what we think as well as how we speak and act become less cluttered by other influences and more purely reflective of the presence of Jesus in our lives. However, Jesus being in our lives is not a result of our obedience. Jesus offers Himself to us while we were yet sinners (Romans 5:8). Our obedience – following Christ – is only possible, as a viable response for us because of God’s initiative and not our own.
The byproduct of such purity borne of not half-hearted but rather single-minded focus upon abiding in Christ, Peter adds, is that “you have sincere love for each other.” Again, Peter’s call for us to love derives out our awareness of Jesus’ love extended toward us. Or as the apostle John once expressed it “We love because Christ first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
Not redundantly, Peter beckons us to “love one another deeply, from the heart” (verse 22). The key word here is the one translated as “deeply” or in some Bibles, “earnestly.” This word in Greek is “ektenōs” and it communicates the effort, the duration required for such love. This word, often associated elsewhere in our Bibles with prayer, conveys the idea of fervency and constancy. Peter is spurring us to extend love to each other with all that we have and all that we are in Christ – holding nothing back.
Human love is, by and large, conditional and therefore reserved. We love those who love us. And if we are unsure whether our love will be returned, we either withhold our love or we love in secret or from afar. Despite what we may feel or profess, because our love is ultimately self-protective and self-serving, we cannot, on our own, love others unconditionally.
However, the love Peter is invoking, the love he is calling to give, is not human love but divine love. The manifestation of such love which is impossible via the “perishable seed” our humanity is viable because we “have been born again…through the living and enduring word of God” (verse 23). What is this “word of God”? In verse 25, Peter declares it is the good news that has been preached to us – that is, the Gospel. It is the word of God made flesh. It the love of Christ for us and in us that not only makes us alive spiritually but also brings to life the expression of divine love through us – the capacity and the ability to unreservedly love others like Jesus.
Peter reinforces his point by quoting from Isaiah 40:6–8: “All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall…” (verse 24). Isaiah’s prophetic words picture human existence to be like a spectacular field of flowering grass that all too soon withers and dries up. Human love like human life, though intense and beautiful in many ways, does not last. We often speak of seasons of love. We grieve over love that fades.
In contrast, first Isaiah and now Peter observe, “but the word of the Lord endures forever” (verse 25). Unlike our temporary and passing lives and loves, the truth of God’s love for us, for all the world, is everlasting. God’s love for us does not fade. God’s love for us is not seasonal. God’s love for us is steady and sure unto eternity.
We, who have been born anew of the “imperishable” seed of such love ought not to be satisfied with mere mutual affection. This broken world in which we exist, these fragmented lives which we share, need more of Christ’s love – all of the love that is God. Living out of not only the unshakable confidence but also the inexhaustible power of God’s love for us, we can and we must love each other – not sparingly or accidentally, but intentionally and generously. Let us, by the grace of the Spirit, keep growing into an ever-deepening self-giving love by making the repeated and conscious choice to embrace and care for others not as we perceive them but as God sees and loves us all in Christ.
Consider & Discuss | Can a person truly love God without loving others? Can a person truly love others without first loving God? What does it mean to love one another deeply? How is this different than loving sincerely? What might it look like practically for you to deeply love the people whom God has put before you? What kind of difference could loving like that – loving the way Christ loves – make in the lives of those people?
Prayer Focus | Gracious God, thank You for the amazing truth that I have been born again by the incorruptible seed of the Word of God. I praise You that Your love for me, Your love for this world, is an inheritance in Christ that will not fade away. Continue to purify my heart through the truth of Your love. As you increase my awareness of Your grace at work in my life, deepen my love not only for You but for all my brothers and sisters. Kindle in me Your divine love – Christ-like love. May Your love that flows through me bless others and lead them back into Your arms. May Your love that strengthens me embolden me to serve others without condition or expectation but fearlessly and joyfully – trusting that Your love when expressed never fails. Your love never returns empty. Your love endures forever. Amen.