I was super excited when I found out that we were going to be studying 1 & 2 Peter together because my hubby just finished preaching through 1 Peter. Since I have a poor memory I am hopeful that this study will cement into my brain the things I have learned. So let’s dig in, shall we?
What is the the outward sign of a changed heart? What is the true mark of a Christian? Is it passion? A wealth of knowledge? Social action or political involvement? Is it generosity? While all of these things are good things, they are not the defining marks of a true believer.
Peter teaches us what this mark really is.
Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God;
1 Peter 1:22-23
Love! This is the mark of a true believer.
Peter knows this is the proof of a changed heart because he heard Jesus say this very thing.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35 (emphasis added)
So what does it mean to love someone? I think to best understand this we need to first look at the opposite of love which is hate.
Now most of us would say that we are not hateful people. Hate is such a strong word I don’t even like my children using it. On the surface hate is not something that I feel that I struggle with. But the painful truth is, I am wrong – and you may be too.
Here are a few characteristics of hate:
- speaking ill of someone (slander and gossip)
- not seeking their good
- wishing harm or misfortune on someone
- finding secret pleasure when things don’t go well for another
- unjust anger
- refusing to forgive
- ignoring someone
- indifference toward another’s circumstance
Are any of these found in your life? Ugh, some of these are alive and well in my own heart. And these are not just the rumblings of frustration in a fallen world. They are manifestations of hatred.
“Hate is often more subtle than wrath, and quieter than rage.” – Joe Thorn
Love should be what governs everything we do and say. It is what pushes us to know and obey God’s word and it is the driving force behind us doing good to the people around us. I could give you a succinct definition of love, but that is too easy. I find it even more helpful to answer the question, “What is love?” by looking at 1Cor. 13.
- Patient with others
- Kind to all
- It does not want what it doesn’t have
- It doesn’t brag or think itself superior to others
- It is not rude
- It is not irritable
- It isn’t resentful
- It does not rejoice at other’s misfortunes or wrongs done to them
- Rejoices and pursues truth
- Bears all things (or puts up with anything)
- Always believes the best
- Endures all things
- Believes God
Peter tells us that these are the virtues that ooze out of loving hearts and into the lives of others. But I get overwhelmed looking at those lists. I am overwhelmed, and sometimes discouraged, because of the hateful ways I see in myself. I don’t love the way I should. I want to, but I fail.
Don’t be discouraged, because this is where the good news of the Gospel speaks words of encouragement and hope to us. Christ not only loves us, but he loved perfectly for us and died for our selfishness and less than perfect love towards others. And through his love we have been gifted with power to change, to love more deeply and to put ourselves last.
We must continue to work at loving others and killing selfishness, not to gain favor with God, but to work out our salvation and to show others that we are new creatures in Christ. But such work is the work of faith, and is ever-dependent on Jesus.
What are some things that we can actually do to practice love?
Here are a few thoughts.
- Become a good listener; otherwise you won’t know what someone needs, how to pray for, or care for them.
- Ask forgiveness without explanation or excuses
- Be generous
- Include others into your circle of friends, small groups, and Bible studies
- Put people before your own interests
- Be willing to sacrifice for others
- Tell the truth with kindness and wisdom
- Encourage with the gospel
- Pray for them
Loving others is not easy. As a matter a fact it is one of the hardest things to do. Sure, loving our friends doesn’t seem to be too hard, but what about the person who is always annoying? The one who knows how to push our buttons? The one who doesn’t care? The one who is malicious? The one who takes us for granted? The family members who are difficult? The strangers who inconvenience us? Or even our fellow Christians who believe differently?
In order to love well we need to keep our eyes on Jesus, the perfector of our love and the example of how to love well.
Looking to Jesus,
What is the hardest part about loving others? And who in your life has shown you the greatest example of love?