1 Peter 1:22-25
Last week we learned that the People of God are to be Holy. They are to strive for moral perfection in all they do. They are learn God’s laws, put them into practice and follow them in their day to day lives. Not in order to earn the label "Holy" but because God has already labeled them "holy" through faith in Jesus.
But maybe that seems a little impersonal. A little robotic.
Do you have an iPhone? The current versions comes with a program called “Siri.” She is a robot that listens to your commands and, in a very robotic voice, does whatever you want her to do. It pulls up directions when you ask for them. It finds nearby restaurants when you’re hungry. It gives you updates on the Duke game score when you are working. Anything you want at your command.
Is that how God wants us to live? Are his people nothing more than a bunch of computer programs that are to formulaically listen to his every command?
Far from it. Listen to what Peter describes as a second trait of God’s people, starting at verse 22 "Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth – that is, by believing the awesome truth that Jesus is your Savior from sin -- so that you have sincere love for your brothers.”
In the Greek language (the language of this letter from Peter), there are three words for love. Each word refers to a specific type of love. The word eros refers to romantic love between a husband and wife. The word agape refers to God’s unconditional love for us.
The final word for love, phileo is the word found at the beginning of verse 22. It refers to friendship love or brotherly love. It’s why Philadelphia’s moniker, the city of brotherly love, is so appropriate.
In other words, one reason God has brought you to faith is so that “you have sincere love for your brothers,” – you might show love to your friends.
What kind of love does God want us to show our friends? Here are three important characteristics of Christian friendship love.
1) It is Sincere.
It says "sincere love" in the English translation, but the Greek more accurately says "non hypocritical love." In other words, this friendship love is real. It’s not fake…even in the slightest.
Fake love is a symptom of American society. It’s what you see on reality TV. Whether you are watching Big Brother, Survivor, or the Bachelorette, “reality” TV has a lot of “fakeness” to it. Often in confessionals, one of the stars will talk to the camera and describe how another person on the show is being ‘fake.’ Then, a few minutes later, that other person will come on camera and talk about how the person that was previously talking about him is in fact fake.
Unless they are being fake, when they call people fake…Confusing?
Maybe you know someone who was fake. Someone who pretended to be your friend, but then turned their back on you.
But God is less concerned about how others have been friends to you, and more concerned about how you are a friend to others. Do you struggle with fake friendship love?
- Do you smile and say good morning to coworkers and as soon as you walk by their desk grimace in a frown because “that guy is a lazy good for nothing?”
- When you ask your neighbor “how they are doing,” do you immediately begin to think of ways out of the conversation when they actually start to answer it?
- When you see a Facebook friend in real life, do you look the other way and pretend to not see her?
- At church, when someone starts talking about some difficulties in your life, do you find yourselves saying, "I'll pray for you," when you really mean: "I'm sick of this conversation and I need to get out of church, so can you wrap it up?”
Fake love is not real love. It isn’t real friendship and it isn’t what God wants his people to do.
2) It is A Deep Love
The second thing to remember about the way People of God Love their fellow man is found at the end of verse 22. Peter writes, "love one another deeply from the heart." The idea in the ancient world is that the heart is the deepest part of a human. It's the part that contains our innermost soul our life force. True love comes from the heart. (Notice that Peter doesn’t tell us to love one another deeply from the tips of our finger nails…)
This then is how deeply we are to love our friends. With a deep love. Passionately.
Do you know who Jillian Michaels is? She has a passion for fitness. She must have over 50 different types of exercise videos. She has passionately coached many people to epic levels of weight loss on The Biggest Loser. I imagine she thinks about fitness all the time. But she loves it. She’s passionate about it.
Is that how you feel about your Christian friends? Do you love them passionately? Do you spend the week thinking about ways to help them? Do you get excited when you have the chance to meet them outside of church? Are you thrilled to encourage them with the message of Jesus on Facebook?
Or have you fallen under the ‘surface level’ friendship spell? Surface level friendship abandons its friends as soon as things get tough.
- It runs away when someone else says they are sick.
- It distances itself when someone mentions financial problems?
- It is annoyed when someone on Facebook seems to be pleading for help. (It just blocks the person rather than seeing how to help.)
- It loves having friends as long as they only talk about the weather and their favorite sports team. As soon as it gets personal, it drops them quickly.
Truth is humans are probably more passionate about things and stuff, than actual people!
If you have been a friend like this, then your love is only surface level. You aren't passionate for your friends. You aren’t acting like a person of God.
3) It is Unconditional
The final thing about our love for one another is kind of a hidden. Take a look at verse 22. You see the word love twice in English. But in Greek, they are actually two different words. The first time it is phileo, friendship love. The second word is agape. That’s God’s love for us. It is unconditional love.
Isn't it interesting here? Peter is directing us to make our philadelphia, brotherly love for our friends into an agape, unconditional love. Love that always loves no matter what the other might do.
How are you with unconditional love? This is the hardest for a human to do, because we usually make friends based on what they have to offer us. They make us feel good. They make us laugh. They give us good conversation. They give us an outlet for a hobby we have. They give us status (Think high school cliques.)
Now you may think “I’ll always be that person’s friend.” But…your friendship may not be all that unconditional if it is ever based on any of these attributes that your friend gives. Because think of what happens when that changes.
- When they betray the trust you place in them, you never speak to them again.
- When they change their mind in politics, you drop them as a friend on Facebook.
- When they have made you feel bad, you refuse to forgive them and avoid them at all costs.
If your love isn’t unconditional, constantly pursuing an avenue to connect with and be a friend to them, then it’s not agape love. It’s not the love God wants people of God to have for their friends.
Sincere, passionate, unconditional friendship love. This is difficult to show the kind of love God demands to our friends. It's true. That’s because sincere, deep, unconditional love is hard for sinful human beings to show. Especially to others sinful human beings.
But sinful human beings are not the reason that we show love to our fellow humans. Look at verse 23, “You have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God."
Ever gotten a pair of socks right out of the drier? This isn't as great in the summer, but during the winter it's wonderful. The socks are nice and toasty because of their source. They just came from the drier that is nice and toasty. Similarly, if you got a pair of socks from the dirty laundry, they might be stinky. Why? Because they came from the dirty laundry.
The source of our love is not ourselves. It is not the good deeds of others. It isn't even a friend's compatibility with ours. The source of sincere, deep, unconditional love for one another is the imperishable, enduring, forever Word of God.
Listen to just how different God's Word is. In verse 24, Peter writes, "All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the Word of the Lord stands forever."
First, consider humans. They are like grass. They have an ending and everything that they do has an ending. It's like the grass. Grass in North Carolina that's real nice looking in spring, but come the middle of a long, hot, dry summer, it turns brown. It withers. When you step on it, pieces of it get stuck in your shoes and pull out of the ground easily.
So are human friendships. They last as long as people have the same interest. They last as long as the relationship is mutually beneficial. They last as long as the person makes me feel good.
But God's Word lasts forever.
You can ignore it. You can try to change it. You can write blogs about how it doesn't matter anymore. You can make movies about how stupid it is. But that doesn't change the fact that God's Word lasts forever!
Thank God that His Word lasts forever. Because His Word isn’t just about the latest fashions. It isn't a record of his favorite recipe for fried chicken. Nor does it say whom he thinks should win the Bachelor.
God's Word tells of God’s sincere, passionate, unconditional love for you.
- Sincere as he sincerely creates this beautiful world for me and for you. Sincere he meant more. In fact, you'll find that the entire Bible is really a love story about God's obsession with you.
- Passionate as it shows how God didn't just abandon you at the first sign of sinful trouble. But came down to earth in order to suffer passionately on the cross for all of your sins--even the sins of faulty love--on the cross. He passionately showed his love by suffering a terrible death so that you wouldn’t have to spend eternity in hell!
- Unconditional love. This caused God to go to the cross for you, “even when you were in your sins.” Love that promises you forgiveness without the condition of any good works being done to earn it. Love that promises you heaven without the condition that if you pray enough prayers to him each day to truly earn it.
God's love is imperishable because it is written in His Word which is also imperishable! In fact, Peter calls it the living and remaining word of God. He doesn't call it the living, but leaving Word of God. As if it was true that God loved you, but now he still is loving but he’s abandoned you. Nor does he call it the remaining, but dead Word of God as if it’s empty words from a dead God.
The Word of the LORD is still alive. It is still here. It will not go away.
Which is huge because it means that the simple from from John 3:16 remains the same now as it always has, "God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him will not perish, but have eternal life."
Therefore, since you have been purified by God's loving friendship, you too ought to love your friends and neighbors with a sincere, passionate, unconditional love. There's the rub. There's you challenge for this week.
Love your friends with a sincere love. Consider them as sinful people who need a Savior just like you do. See them as souls who needs God's love and who will see it through your actions and hear about it through your words.
Love your friends with a passionate love. Love that acts on their behalf. Love that asked if they are having a good day and then listens carefully to the answer considering how you can help them. Love that does something to improve a coworker's day. Love that actually brings the requests and needs of a church friend to God in prayer.
Love your friends with an unconditional love. Forgive those who have wronged you. Help those who are mean to you. Pray for those who are your enemies.
Brothers and sisters, this will be hard!
Because as you are working on this tomorrow, someone will do something sinful and say something hurtful to you. You'll be tempted to stop being so loving.
Instead, start meditating on God's love. Remember He's the reason that you love. His sincere, passionate, unconditional love. Read in his enduring Word about how great his Love is.
Think of it like lemonade. If you have a tall, cold glass your friends might ask you for a sip. You give them one. Then, someone else wants their glass topped off, so you do. Before you know it, you don't have any lemonade left. So what do you do?
Go back to the source. Get some more lemonade from the pitcher.
When you give out your love, you may not receive it back. So what!?! That shouldn't stop you from loving. Simply go back to the source of your love: God himself. See how sincere it is. Meditate on how passionate it is. Dwell on how unconditional it is.
Love because God first loved you.