We are currently going through the book of First Peter for our Sunday morning series. The last three Sundays we have been looking at the same passage, 1:13 - 2:3 and Ron has broken it up into three messages. The first was to Stay Sober, the second was Be Holy, and the third is Love Earnestly.
When you talk about being loving you’re not going to get a lot of disagreement about that. Who would argue with love. Everyone agrees that we need to love and we need to do it more. A more important question might be focusing in on the what, why, and how of love. So let’s look at those. Let’s look first at the ‘why’ question.
Why are we called to love earnestly? Jesus commanded us to love one another. He said “A new commandment I give to you that you love one another...”. But lest we think that loving just boils down to a command or another point on your “to do list” we need to see something significant. Jesus not only commanded this, but gives us the power to do it. It is the result of the grace of God at work in our lives. Paul says in Eph. 1:5 that “In love he predestined us in Christ Jesus...”. The work that God began in us began in love. We were birthed in love. Our very spiritual nature is founded in love. It is in our DNA so to speak. We walk in love because its a part of our new nature. Peter says In vs. 22 we’re to walk in “obedience to the truth”, and we do this by loving one another “earnestly from a pure heart”. Obedience implies we are submitted to someone else. We are not looking to fulfill selfish desires, but genuinely love each other. This implies Lordship. We are not on the throne of our own lives, Jesus is. Jesus doesn’t come into our lives to help us and make life easier for us. This kind of ‘prosperity’ gospel teaching tends to make it more about us than about him. He is Lord. He is on the throne and we are his subjects called to obey with the power he supplies...as we practice loving one another earnestly. We keep practicing until the result is a sincere love. Since we were conceived in love and born of an “imperishable seed” it is a love that lasts forever. DNA love. Paul says in 1 Cor. 13:8 “love never ends” or “never fails”. Love is one thing you can do that lasts into eternity. What an investment! Does it seem hard at times? I was just with someone this morning who was being challenged by people who were treating her poorly and unfairly. I was encouraging her to respond with genuine love towards them without expecting anything in return. Her response was “That’s hard!”. She’s right. That’s hard. But it has eternal ramifications and rewards.
Next Ron asked what it means to love earnestly. Simply stated it means to have a heart that wills the good of others. Sincere love is love that is not mixed. It has no ulterior motive – it does not contain a condition about our personal gain. Jesus said in Luke 6:32 “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.” Anyone can love someone who loves you back, but what if you get nothing in return? Or worse, someone who returns evil for good? This is what love is really about. Loving those who don’t necessarily love you. Where does this kind of love come from? Your DNA. Its a part of your identity. It doesn’t start with your behavior it starts with who your Daddy is. A common view of love is that it should feel easy and pleasant, not strenuous. We often see it more about our feelings than our wills. We can even feel hypocritical by expressing love towards someone we don’t have warm feelings toward. Love is willing the good of others and is more an act of our will than it is some reaction from our feelings. When Jesus was praying in Gethsemane he was about to fulfill the greatest act of love ever. He wasn’t concerned about whether he felt good about it. In fact he was agonizing over it. The most important thing to him was he wanted to do his Father’s will. Love is not a feeling or emotion it is a state of obedience. A set of the mind that purposes to obey the Father. True love also drives out what Ron called “anti-loves”. These things Peter lists in 2:1; Malice deceit, hypocrisy, envy and slander. Things, unfortunately, that come far more naturally to us than love. But we can do this if we drink in God’s Word like a newborn drinks in milk. The Word, like this passage we are looking at here, is filled with the nutrients we need to produce the lasting fruit of love in our lives.
The final question to look at is how we do this. How can we love with this kind of earnestness? Well...Peter makes this one easy. “If...you have tasted that the Lord is good” (2:3). How can you do this? Have you tasted the love of God expressed to you through Christ? Do you live with an awareness of your identity as a child of God born out of love that began before time itself? Is it in your DNA? The Lord’s love is good! He has loved you with an everlasting love. He has forgiven you, and given you new life, and eternal life. With this as a backdrop we are able to go on to the next step and practice this love. Like any kind of exercise we find that the more we practice it the better we get at it. The stronger we become and the easier it gets. So it is with love – the more you love, the more you are able to love. The less you love, the less you are able to love.
So...let’s love one another earnestly from the heart. Let’s practice this! You’ve been born again of “imperishable seed”. You have your Father’s DNA...his identity. You are his and he is on the throne of your heart. As we live this out both in our community and in the world the Holy Spirit will use us to effect change in this body, in the community and world around us.