I don’t really have a green thumb (more like a brown thumb!). I would like things to grow around my house, but it seems to be a constant challenge. But I have learned one thing: Growing things need food and water.
You put sod down. You hope it will take. You long for nature to do its thing. And if you are fortunate, the grass grows. But not always. Grass does grow, but it grows better with a little attentive care. A little fertilizer. Some attention to the weeds that want to take over. Sufficient water. Appropriate mowing. My yard is far from perfect, but I do have grass growing. I’ve learned a thing or two about what grass needs to grow.
Once someone comes into new life in Jesus, there is something similar going on. New life has come (as Peter described in the first chapter). You hope it will take. You long for the Spirit to do His thing. And if you are fortunate, spiritual life grows. But not always. Spiritual life grows better with a little attentive care.
So, what is needed for healthy spiritual growth? As Peter continues, he highlights one of the most important ingredients:
Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord. ~ 1 Peter 2:1–3
As Peter wrote it, these verses make up one long sentence. In this sentence, there is one main verb–everything else hangs on that. The big idea? The main verb? “Long for the pure milk of the word.” That’s the call–and that’s one of the essential ingredients for spiritual growth: A deep, felt, desire for God’s word. And why is that so essential? As we saw earlier in Peter’s letter, our new life comes through the agency of God’s word. Seeing as we are made alive through His word, it makes sense that our souls are fed by His word.
So, what about the other parts of this sentence? Let’s unpack a bit.
Therefore: This ties these verses to what preceded. Peter explained how we are made anew and alive in Christ through God’s word, so here he is building on that.
Putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander: This isn’t so much a command to put these things away as much as it is an observation that to long for God’s word (Peter’s call to his readers) means such things will have to have been put away. If you are going to run north, you’ll have to turn from south. If you are going to run after God’s word for your growth, those things that keep you focused on others (whether their good things or bad things) will have to be left behind.
Like newborn babies: Every parent knows the kind of hunger that grips a newborn and the grasping that follows as that newborn tries to reach for what he or she instinctively knows is needed to feed a hungry stomach. That’s the picture of what Peter says our longing should be for the word of God.
Long for the pure milk of the word: Here it is, the central command for growth. Feel deeply your need for God’s word the way an infant craves milk.
So that by it you may grow with respect to salvation: Simply put, this is Peter understanding of the value of God’s word in our lives. It is the means for our ongoing growth. Little milk of the word, little growth. It’s not a performance thing. It’s not about meriting growth. It’s about the Spirit-backed power of God’s word to bring transformation in our lives.
If you have tasted the kindness of the Lord: This is not a “questioning ‘if.'” Peter is not questioning whether his readers have experienced God’s grace in bringing them new life because of His mercy and kindness. He knows they have. (See the first part of chapter one!) But this is a “seeing as ‘if.'” Understand it this way: “If, as is indeed the case, you have experienced God’s kindness in bringing you to new life through His word, then keep on leaning into that word of grace!”
Growing souls need something for growth. Here Peter helps us see one of the most important ingredients: God’s word. If you long for growth, help yourself! Feed fully, drink deeply, satiate your soul with God’s word.