Meditations in 1 Peter : 15 : Love is
1 Pet 1:22 Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart
In recent years I have concluded that the most important characteristic of the Christian is love – and yet it doesn’t seem to get the amount of air-time that it deserves. I’ll start by suggesting you love as much as you have been loved, as John said, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us.” (1 Jn 4:10) but perhaps I should temper what I’ve just said by saying we love as much as we realise how much we’re loved.
Peter obviously thinks similarly because he is going to encourage us to love one another: “love one another deeply, from the heart.” The last three words are interesting. How else can we love, we might ask? Well we might love with our mind, an intellectual love. We know love is what should be in us and so we declare that it will be. But love is far more than a mere mental assent. Perhaps that is why the commandments about God are summed up as “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Mt 22:37). Put most simply, our love is to be whole hearted, mind and emotions together, if you like.
But in this verse there is an order of events: obey the truth – purify yourself – love for others.
The truth is simply that which has been revealed to us – the Gospel – which includes the truth that Jesus is both Lord and Saviour. As we have recently noted, he calls us out of the dominion of darkness into the kingdom of God where the rule of God prevails. The Gospel is first all about surrender to God. We give up our own rights to rule our lives because we realise (with the convicting help of the Holy Spirit) that we have made a mess of them, we are hopeless and we need saving. It is only then about what God does for us and in us. John the Baptist came preaching, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” (Mt 3:2) and Jesus followed preaching, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” (Mt 4:17) It was exactly the same message: do a one hundred and eighty degree turn and submit to the rule of God which is about to come. “Jesus answered, “I am the …. truth.” (Jn 14:6) Everything Jesus speaks is the truth for he is the very expression of The Truth – God! . Jesus never said anything that was not the truth. That’s why, again and again, we find him saying, “I tell you the truth.” (Jn 3:3,5,11, 5:19,24,25 etc. etc.) Thus to obey the Father, we obey everything the Son has told us. The Christian life is first about submission and obedience.
But part of our obedience is moving into a life of purity. Jesus taught, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” (Mt 5:8) When we think of something that is pure – e.g. gold, silver etc. – we mean that it is free from impurities. Impurities in the Christian life are any forms of sin, or anything that mars our relationship with the Lord. The ‘pure in heart’ do not let anything taint their heart that might spoil their relationship with the Lord. A heart that allows pride to reside in it is a tainted heart and not pure, and the pride will turn the heart hard. A heart that allows covetousness to reside in it is a tainted heart and not pure, and will cause the heart to be restless, discontented and critical of God’s provision. There are a myriad of ways that our hearts can be tainted and not pure, but these are not the ways of the Christian for the Christian has submitted to Jesus and allows his rule to prevail, and that means the Christian realises their weakness and frailty and there is not room for pride. They also rest in their Saviour for he is alone is the means of their ongoing daily salvation.
As this purity comes to us at salvation and we are cleansed from our old life and empowered for a new one by the presence of the Holy Spirit, He wipes away all self and all opposition to other people. It is only as the enemy comes and we listen to him, do those things take hold again if we let them. But that is not what the rule of Jesus wants in our lives. He wants them to be as pristine clean as they were at the moment of our conversion when we were born again. At that moment at least we were utterly surrendered to him, at that moment we were utterly pure, and at that moment utterly open to him we were open to all others; there was within us this love for others that Peter speaks about. It was a natural part of the new us when we were born again, for we received the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus, and he expresses the love of the Father to all. It is only as we take hold of our lives again and start thinking and rationalizing and reasoning, that we think negatively about others and forget that of ourselves we have nothing to commend us.
That is how we are naturally in Christ, is what Peter is implying and so, he says, let that work out in you and love one another deeply, from the heart. Now we see another reason why it is from the heart, because that is where purity resides and there it is that is the motivation that we have. Our hearts were surrendered to him, and our hearts are made pure and that purity means in respect of how we view others as well, with the eyes of Jesus. Oh how easy it is to stray from the truth and take up the rights of self again, and as soon as we do that we find negatives about other people rising within us. It should not be so, for it means we have been listening to the enemy and not to our Lord. Let’s check out who we’ve been listening to!