“Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, because 'All flesh is as grass, And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, And its flower falls away, But the word of the LORD endures forever.' Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you.” (1 Peter 1.22-25).

Jesus gave commandment to His disciples that they “love one another.” (John 13.3; John 15.12; John 15.17). John was present when Jesus gave this commandment and reminded his readers of it a total of six times in his general epistles (see 1 John 3.11; 1 John 3.23; 1 John 4.7; 1 John 4.11; 1 John 4.12; 2 John 1.5). Paul, likewise, was familiar with this commandment and committed it to writing on at least two occasions (Romans 13.8; 1 Thessalonians 4.9). Of all these usages Peter is the only one that intensifies our Lord's command to love one another; it is this intensification that draws our attention today.

When it comes to love among believers, it is not enough just to love; we are called to love fervently! Interestingly enough, this is the only time in the entire Bible that the root word fervent is used as an adverb. It literally carries the idea of stretching oneself forward. It has the concept of loving without reservation or condition. Love, in this case, does not wait for the other person to make the first move. Going back to the earthly ministry of Jesus, love does not lend hoping to gain some advantage; it lends just because of love itself!

As I thought about this text recently, my first inclination was to indict the church for failing to have the type of love Peter talked about, i.e. fervent love. I have witnessed love among brethren for the greater part of half a century and seldom have I seen this type of love displayed. However, my first inclination is the wrong inclination. It is not the church that needs to be indicted; it is I! I have failed this test so frequently that I cannot begin to count the times I should have loved – just for love's sake!! I had great excuses each and every time. How was I to know that the money was going to be put to good use? How was I to know that the person asking forgiveness was sincere? How was I to know that others were not in a better position to help than I was? All were great excuses! Problem is – that is just what they were – excuses.

Peter did not call us to be fervent excuse makers; he called us to fervent love. Somehow my responsibility to love fervently is not diminished by how anyone (or everyone) else reacts to this command. When I measure my responsibilities by the way others meet theirs, I fail the very first test of love. I do not stretch my self out; quite the opposite I withdraw into my own self. What a pity that I have waited so long to learn this valuable lesson. But, alas, as someone has opined tongue in cheek, “We get too soon old and too late smart!

The adage, “A better world begins with me,” may be true, but for the believer it is irrelevant. Whether the world is ever better or not is not the question. The real question is this: “Will I love the way God loves – unconditionally?” Fervent love stretches itself out, becomes vulnerable, and never, ever loses!

Questions:

1. In the Gospel of John, Jesus told His disciple to love one another. In the same verses He told them to what degree they were to love one another? What did He say that qualified the type of love they were to have?

2. What is the literal meaning of fervent as used in the New Testament?

3. What conditions did the Father place on His love for us? How about Jesus Christ; what conditions did He place on His love for us?

4. In what ways has God called us to unconditional love? How can we answer that call?