Read His Words Before Ours!
As the children got off the bus there was a buzz of animated chatter.
Just arriving for a week at camp, they were full of excitement and eager to get started.
Well, most of them were...
At the back of the line were two brothers, fear and apprehension written all over their faces. Their response to the leaders’ friendly greetings was monosyllabic, their manner hesitant and uncertain. It was all new to them and they had no idea what to expect.
Fast forward a week, and children were piling back onto the bus to return home. Again, the two brothers hung back, but this time their behaviour wasn’t motivated by fear and anxiety, but by reluctance to leave a place of happiness and a desire to say individual goodbyes to each leader. There were hugs, tears, and smiles, as we stood amazed at the radical transformation in such a short space of time.
I’m convinced the reason was love.
We had quickly discovered the two brothers had a difficult home situation. They had never experienced a loving Christian community before, and the impact on them was profound. It’s said that actions speak louder than words, and it’s true. The way we treat others and our attitudes towards them have more impact than we often realise.
In his letter to the first-century Christians, Peter highlights this truth. He writes to the believers about how to behave towards one another, towards their unbelieving neighbours, and those in authority.
He emphasises the lasting impact of their conduct.
Peter implores, “show sincere brotherly love for each other,
from a pure heart, love one another constantly.” (1 Peter 1:22)
As these believers lived in difficult circumstances, facing opposition, persecution, and suffering, it was important they stood united.
Peter tells them this unifying love springs from their new life in Christ.
They have been born again into His family as brothers and sisters and co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17). This love isn’t the mushy, romantic, feelings-based love the world portrays in songs and movies, but the committed, selfless, sacrificial love Jesus displayed in His life, death, and resurrection.
Jesus Himself taught that loving one another was a mark of following Him, which would impact those who witnessed it. One cannot remain unchanged by love.
Let’s be real though.
Loving others, even other Christians, is hard sometimes.
Opinions and personalities clash, we rub each other the wrong way,
we can act thoughtlessly and selfishly, and sometimes hurt one another.
But we are still called to love.
Not because we have the ability on our own, but because, as Peter says, “we have been born again….(by) imperishable seed.” (1 Peter 1:23)
In 1 Corinthians 13 and Colossians 3, Paul details what it means to love with our new, incorruptible nature.
And it’s radically different from the world’s image of love.
Paul describes a patient, forgiving, enduring love that allows us to live in harmony even when it’s challenging.
This love is impossible to work up by ourselves.
Love is a fruit of the Spirit, not our own efforts.
It is the result of God working within us enabling us to love.
However, it is also a choice we make to cooperate with God’s work in us, and be committed to this kind of love.
The word translated as “constantly” in verse 22 is rendered in other versions of the Bible as “earnestly“, “fervently“, or “with all your heart,” conveying the sense that this is a love we must choose and actively pursue.
In chapter 2, Peter goes on to write about the importance of believers conducting themselves honourably before the unbelievers around them. He encourages them that their actions and attitudes are a witness, pointing others to God!
For the same reason, and with the same love, believers are called to submit to figures of authority, “for it is God’s will that you silence the ignorance of foolish people by doing good.“ (1 Peter 2:15)
These must have been incredibly challenging instructions in a culture where the believers faced ridicule and intense persecution from authority, but they were called, by their love and their honourable behaviour, to glorify God and make Him known.
The same challenge is for us today.
How well do we love our Christian brothers and sisters?
How well do our actions witness to those around us?
Are we truly known for our love?
The impact of putting Jesus’ incorruptible love on display is great!
I doubt that the two brothers who came to camp went home remembering much of what they heard about Jesus that week, but I do know they went home having experienced, probably for the first time, a loving community where they were valued, accepted, and deeply loved.
For those brothers, that week was only the beginning.
The two boys returned year after year, gradually they began truly taking in what was being taught. Eventually they came to faith in Jesus for themselves!
Our little acts of love may not seem like much, but their impact can be eternal.
Incorruptible love produces incorruptible results.
As Peter reminds, so much around us is fading,
but God’s Word, and the new life we have in Him – this life of love – remain forever!
Embracing God’s fullness in our lives is rooted in scripture and memorizing His word is vital to our continued growth and depth with Jesus. Tap and hold from your mobile device to download this week’s verse and make it your phone’s lockscreen!