One of the themes that continue to surface in my conversations with others is the difference between living because of who we are and living in a particular way in order to become who we want to be. It might sound like that’s straining at wording, but it there is a significant difference between living out what you are versus hoping one day to become something different. A number of posts on 1 Peter have already touched on this idea–and Peter’s words again bring us back to this theme.
Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart. ~ 1 Peter 1:22
“Since” points the way forward–Peter is referring to something that is already true about his readers. Through their response to the message of the Gospel–their “obedience to the truth”–they have already been changed. This change is spoken of in terms of purified souls. To have one’s soul purified is to have the things that defile and debase the soul dealt with, removed, cleansed. But that is not the end point.
Their souls were changed in this way “for a sincere love of the brethren.” The purpose of this purifying work was not simply to be changed, but for this change to flow into a kind of life–a life of love for others. Seeing as this was part of the design of the purification so that there might flow a sincere love for fellow believers, Peter calls his readers to give themselves to this love. This is a call to live in love because of who you are, and not a call to become what you are not.
Peter qualifies this love in writing of a fervent love. This is the same adverb used by Luke to describe Jesus’ praying in the garden while in agony (Luke 22:44). This is no benign tolerance of one another–this is a passionate, deeply felt, truly engaged love.
What this implies is that when we are not giving ourselves to be deeply touched by, passionately engaged with, and truly gripped in love for one another, we are not fully living into the life we were made for. It’s not a matter of trying harder to become something we are not, but a matter of abandoning ourselves to grow up to be what we were made, by grace, to be.
When we pull back from a fervent love for others saying, “I just don’t feel it” or “I’m not that kind of person,” we are overlooking the gracious, Gospel-rooted purifying work that God has undertaken in us. We are settling for living inconsistent with the marvelous transformative work that has already been worked into us.