Years ago Tina Turner sang a song that ask a very pertinent question, “What’s love got to do with it?” The answer is . . . everything! When Jesus was asked about the greatest commandment, Jesus told them in two equal parts. “37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39). Jesus also said that people would know we are His followers by our love. “34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35).
Look around you and it doesn’t take long to see that our society is becoming less personal. The personal is being replaced with the virtual and one-on-one, eye-to-eye contact is being lost. To be a “friend” today doesn’t mean the same as it used to. To “like” someone doesn’t mean what it used to mean. You can like someone’s Facebook post, Instagram message, or “tweet” on Twitter. To follow somebody is different today. The reality is you can have lots of friends, likes and followers on social media but not have many close, personal and actual friends! A recent study found that despite being more connected than ever before, more people feel alone than ever before. The ones who say they feel most alone are the ones you would least expect it from . . . those under thirty-five who are the most active social networkers.
Walk into a coffee shop and you will see this in action. The coffee shop and other similar venues are now places where people go to be alone together! People are gathered in the same place “together” but alone working and focusing on a screen. Let me give a DISCLAIMER . . . I am a huge fan of technology! They are great assets and tools but we must be very careful to not allow them to take the place of personal, eye-to-eye, face-to-face, intentional interaction! One of the things we as the church must be great at is the personal kind of love. If there is one place where love should flourish it is within the Body of Christ. Turn in your Bibles to 1 Peter 1. “22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, 23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; 24 for ‘All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, 25 but the word of the Lord remains forever.’ And this word is the good news that was preached to you.” (1 Peter 1:22-25). Peter begins this section about importance of personal, intentional love by connecting it all to our personal faith in Christ. He says, “Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth . . .” (1 Peter 1:22). When he says, “purified your souls” (1 Peter 1:22) that is a reference to something that has happened in the past that has continuing results.
Our personal, intentional, Biblical love for one another is Birthed Out Of New Birth into God’s family. How that happens is said to be “by your obedience to the truth.” (1 Peter 1:22). Your obedience takes place at conversion when you accept Christ as your Savior and Lord. When you are saved, you begin a new life in Christ fleshed out by obedience to God’s truth revealed in Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. Back in Biblical days and even today, the first true outward symbol of obedience to Christ in salvation is baptism. Baptism is your outward symbol of the inward reality of saving faith. Baptism back in Biblical days was the way you publicly displayed, “stepped over the line” to unashamedly let people know you were a Christ-follower. What does this love look like?
Our personal and intentional love for one another is to be Sincere. “. . . for a sincere brotherly love . . .” (1 Peter 1:22). The Greek word for “sincere” means “without hypocrisy.” In other words, “Be genuine and authentic in your displays of love towards one another.” Don’t be fake or plastic; be the real thing. Last Saturday evening we were out with some friends at PDQ Restaurant in Hickory. We looked up on a shelf and saw some fruits and vegetables. From a distance they looked real but the closer you got to them and when really investigated them you realized that they were plastic and fake. They were made to look real but they definitely were not real. Our word “sincere” comes from a Latin word that means “without wax.” In ancient times, porcelain dealers and statue makers would use wax to fill in their mistakes. If you were working on a project and close to its completion and you accidentally had a chip or a crack, you had two options . . . start all over or patch it with some wax. If a dealer wanted you to know or believe their product was top quality, they would tell you it was “without wax.” They way you could tell if it was flawed and had wax in it was to hold it up to the sunlight. If there was wax anywhere in the piece, the light would expose it and shine through. When our love is exposed to the pure light of God’s truth and our new birth into God’s family, it will be seen for what it really is. God’s truth will reveal whether it is sincere or insincere. Insincere love is when you fill in your love with cheap substitutes. Like paying a compliment to someone when you don’t really mean it or you are just trying to manipulate and get something . . . Like when you hug somebody but it’s not out of love but you just selfishly want to get close to that person.
Our personal and intentional love for one another is to be All About Family. Peter uses family words to describe our love. “Brotherly” (1 Peter 1:22) and “born again” (1 Peter 1:23). When you have been spiritually “born again” you now have a new spiritual family. As believers we are all in the same family . . . We call on the same Heavenly Father . . . We trust in the same Savior . . . We all have the same Holy Spirit living inside of us . . . We all come to salvation the same way by trusting in Jesus alone and His precious, priceless blood shed for us. There is a saying among families that “blood is thicker than water.” That means the family bond goes so much deeper than just our names. We stick together through it all. That is more true within the Church (Body of Christ) than about any earthly family unit. What that means is when you mess up, even when you really mess up, we are here to help clean up the mess. When you fall down, we are here to pick you back up. Whatever happens we are here to love you through it. Like we say . . . No Perfect People Allowed . . . Come as you are and leave changed . . . It’s okay to not be okay, but God doesn’t want you to stay that way!
Our personal and intentional love for one another is to be Earnest. “love one another earnestly” (1 Peter 1:22). Earnestly means “deeply.” This word is an athletic word and it’s like when you are lifting weights. You put weights on the barbell to do repetitions. You put enough weight on the barbell so that it will push you to your limits and stretch your capacity. You want it to be a struggle to complete that last repetition. It means “to stretch the muscle to capacity.” Push yourself to what you can do and then a little bit more. Peter is telling you to go all out in your love! Stretch yourself so far in your love that you are graciously healing and forgiving. This kind of love is not just a feeling. It definitely is something you have to work on. You need to make it an act of your will. Even when you have been hurt by somebody, you still choose to love! Even when the other person doesn’t “deserve” your love, you still choose to love. Isn’t that the way God chooses to love us? “ . . . but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8). We can never love enough and we must always push ourselves to love more and more. How earnest and deep is your love in your relationships? How do you stretch out your love to your spouse? What acts of love do you extend to your parents or children? How deeply do you love those in your church family? How deeply do you love the world around you where you live, work and play? Our personal and intentional love for one another is to be Pure. Peter says we are to “love one another earnestly from a pure heart.” (1 Peter 1:22). You might be asking, “So what if I’m just not feeling it? What if I am having a problem being pure, sincere and earnest?” Decisions start the process and feelings will always follow. With a train you have to have an engine to move the train and the other parts of the train follow. With your love, decision is the engine and feelings are the caboose. As you put the decision in motion to love, your feelings to love will follow.
Our personal and intentional love for one another is to be Biblical. “23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; 24 for ‘All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, 25 but the word of the Lord remains forever.’ And this word is the good news that was preached to you.” (1 Peter 1:23-25). Good growth requires good food. God’s Word reveals to us how to love and shows us a God who loves. The perfect, inerrant, inspired Word of God lasts forever. In our flesh we all will fade away but God and His Word will endure forever. As God’s Word is preached to us and given to us, it becomes an “imperishable seed” (1 Peter 1:23). When you plant a seed in the ground, the way you know the seed existed and was healthy is by the evidence of the fruit produced. Fruit proves the seed exists! The way people know the love of God exists in you is to see God’s personal and intentional love working its way out through you. If you don’t feel like loving that unloveable person in your life, do it anyway! If you don’t feel like forgiving that hateful person, do it anyway! If you really don’t want to forgive that jerk who is in your face, do it anyway! If you don’t feel like humbling yourself to that prideful person in your life, do it anyway! There should be no limit to how much we love and how often we love. Remember in the gospels when Jesus was asked, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” (Matthew 18:21). Guess who asked that question . . . Peter! Jesus immediately responded by telling him, “I don’t say to seven times, but seventy times seven.” (Matthew 18:22). Peter was wanting an “out.” He was wanting to know when he could cut people off and be justified in doing it. But Jesus ends up telling him there is no cut-off.
There should be no limit to your love. That same Peter who was asking that question is now writing in his epistle, you are to love sincerely, deeply, purely, and without limits. Paul says, “. . . because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:5). The word for “poured” (Romans 5:5) he uses means it keeps overflowing. God pours His love into our hearts so full that it keeps overflowing, overflowing, and overflowing. Nobody in your life should be love starved! When you feel like you have run out and loved all you can love, God keeps filling you back up again and again and again.
Back in the 1960’s the rock band Jefferson Airplane released a song called, “Somebody To Love.” The song asked several questions, “Don’t you want somebody to love? . . . Don’t you need somebody to love? . . . Wouldn’t you love somebody to love? . . . You better find somebody to love. . . . Love.” The world might be moving towards being less personal and more virtual, but when it comes to our love we need to be very personal and very intentional. “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. . . . Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.” (1 John 4:7,11-12). Do you want somebody to love today? Are you always looking for somebody to love around you? Do you need somebody to love? Is there somebody in your life that doesn’t deserve love but you need to love? Follow God’s command . . . let God love throu