1 Peterby David Burge
We were often asked by friends: ″What's it like to live in Mongolia? What are the people like?″ We would sometimes answer: ″Do you mean Mongolian Christians, or Mongolians generally?″ There was often a big difference! Walking into Mongolian Christian gatherings was like walking into a warmer, more loving version of Mongolian culture. There was trust, respect, and love.
Hopefully, in whatever culture you live in, there is an enormous difference between life outside the church and life inside the church. That is also what Peter expected when writing these verses.
He calls Christians those who have ″purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other″ (1 Peter 1:22). I've never lived in a culture where ″sincere love for each other″ is normal. But I have lived in church families like that. Yes, the love is always imperfect, but it can be sincere.
Sincere love is a good start, but Peter would have our love get richer still. He adds: ″Love one another deeply, from the heart″ (v. 22). We are to look at each other and see people worth loving, deeply. We are all different shapes and sizes, and come from different cultures. The world teaches us to put each other into categories such as pretty or ugly, fit or overweight, independent or needy, influential or inconsequential. But these are shallow, temporary ways of viewing eternal souls. We must learn to see ourselves and each other as precious souls brought to immortality through God's Word (v. 23).
The temporary is often contrasted with the imperishable in 1 Peter, and we Christians share in God's imperishable life by receiving God's ″living and enduring word″ (v. 23). To make his point, Peter excitedly quotes Isaiah's ancient yet living promises (from Isaiah 40:6-8): although humans are frail and will die, God's Word, which promises to save a people for himself, stands forever. We are His people, made imperishable by the gospel of Jesus which the apostles announced (1 Peter 1:12, 23).
It is not as though the church has to generate love from within. Rather, we are God's born-again, Spirit-enlivened people. The Spirit enables us to love, which is the chief Christian virtue. With the Spirit, we have the wellspring of God's love within; each day God gives us is our opportunity to live that love out.
Think of the Christians you spend most time with-perhaps a spouse, relatives, or friends. What would it look like for you to love them more sincerely, deeply, and from the heart?
What kind of loving words and actions would they appreciate from you?