22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, 23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; 24 for
“All flesh is like grass
and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
and the flower falls,
25 but the word of the Lord remains forever.”
And this word is the good news that was preached to you. – 1 Peter 1:22-25 ESV
For Peter, the love of God should be reciprocal and a motive to express the same degree of love to others. In other words, we should love God and love others. Which is exactly what Jesus said when He had been asked what the greatest commandment was.
37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” – Matthew 22L37-40 ESV
God has loved us by ransoming us from sin “with the precious blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:19 ESV). Paul reminds us, “he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all” (Romans 8:32 NLT) and “showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8 NLT). And Peter points out that it is because God sent His Son, manifesting or revealing Himself in human flesh, then dying in the place of sinful men, that we are able to believe in God. It is through Jesus that we have access to God. Peter puts it this way: “who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. Ultimately, Jesus points us to God. It was God who sent Him. It was God who raised Him. So, our faith and hope should be in God.
And by believing the truth about who Jesus was and what He came to do, and obediently accepting His offer of salvation, we have been purified. On the cross, Christ took our sins upon Himself and transferred His righteousness to us. Not only that, He placed the Spirit of God within us. The Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, indwells each and every believer – all those whom God has chosen. He is our advocate, comforter, helper, intercessor and source of power required for living the Christian life. That is why Peter encourages us to “love one another earnestly from a pure heart” (1 Peter 1:22 ESV). We have been given the capacity to love like we never could have done before. Prior to our salvation, our lives were marked by selfishness and self-centeredness. That is not to say that we never loved anyone else. But our love was always tainted by sin and an innate desire to get something in return. Human love, apart from Christ, is always a what’s-in-it-for-me kind of love. It is based on a scratch-my-back-and-I’ll-scratch-yours kind of mentality. But Christ-like love is selfless and anything but self-serving. Jesus died for those who hated Him. He loved by giving His life and allowing Himself to be crucified by those for whom He came to provide salvation. And we are to emulate that kind of love, especially among those who are our brothers and sisters in Christ.
19 We love each other because he loved us first.
20 If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a fellow believer, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see? 21 And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their fellow believers. – 1 John 4:19-21 NLT
Even Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35 ESV). And Peter reminds us that we have been born again. We are new creations. We have been given new spiritual life. And that new spiritual life is eternal in nature, not temporal. It has attached to it an eternal inheritance. Our relationship with God the Father will last forever. So will our relationships with our fellow believers in Christ. Quoting from the book of Isaiah, Peter contrasts the transitory nature of our old nature with that of our new nature in Christ.
24 As the Scriptures say,
“People are like grass;
their beauty is like a flower in the field.
The grass withers and the flower fades.
25 But the word of the Lord remains forever.” – 1 Peter 1:24-25 NLT
God has loved us with an everlasting, never-ending love. He has promised us an eternal inheritance. And we will share that inheritance with those who have also been chosen by God. We are now part of a family and we are to love one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. Each of us has received the good news regarding new life in Christ. That news changed everything about us: Our natures, our hearts, our destinies, our hope for the future, our source of help for the present, and our ability to love those whom God has chosen and whom He has placed in our lives. What we must come to grips with is the reality that our adoption into God’s family is permanent. It will last forever. And all those with whom we share the remarkable reality of adoption by God will be our brothers and sisters for eternity. That’s why we must begin learning to love them now.
Over in his letter to the Galatians, Paul provides a stark list of the works or deeds that come out of a life lived according to the flesh or our old sinful nature.
19 When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, 21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. – Galatians 5:19-21 NLT
Notice how many of them are relational in nature. Sexual immorality is by definition, relational. It involves another individual. Lust is the same way. Hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, and envy – they’re all relational in nature. When we forget what Christ has done for us and that what He did was God’s idea, we allow our old nature to raise its ugly head. It becomes all about us again. Our needs, wants, and desires take precedence over our love for others. And this is especially true when we find ourselves suffering or struggling with trials of any kind. Difficulties drive us inward in our thinking. We become obsessed with ourselves. We become myopic in our outlook, thinking that we are alone and demanding that everyone minister to us. But Peter recommends selflessness, even in the face of life’s trials and tribulations. We have been born again to eternal life. The difficulties of this life will not last, but our love for one another should. Love is eternal, because it is a quality of our eternal God. In fact, it is more than a character trait of God, it is the essence of His being. God is love. It’s not something He does. It is who He is. And as His children, the same thing should be true of us. We are to “love one another earnestly from a pure heart” (1 Peter 1:22 ESV). Or as the apostle John puts it:
7 Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. 8 But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. – 1 John 4:7-8 NLT
English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.