We are living in days when the price tag on being a Christian—a true Christian—is becoming increasingly apparent. That’s already true in many countries where to be a Christian costs you your life, or prison, or severe persecution even at the hands of those you love most.
We haven’t seen much of that here in western lands so far, but the forces of darkness here are becoming increasingly hostile these days. If you stand for truth and righteousness you are going to pay for it—even here in the so-called free world.
A while ago when reading through 1 Peter I noticed something I hadn’t seen before. This letter is well known for its emphasis on trial and suffering. But I noticed that interlaced through the letter there is a call—that we love one another.
And so I think, brothers and sisters, that as we see things growing more difficult we are going to see something else growing—something very beautiful–the fervent love of Christ among the brethren in a world that hates God and His Christ.
It’s because of this hatred that Peter urges us:
Love the brotherhood (1 Pt. 2.17).
Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful (tenderhearted), courteous (of a friendly mind) (1 Pt. 3.8).
Peter says finally, but apparently the Holy Spirit wasn’t finished yet. He goes on to talk about suffering for doing what is right, saying that if we are determined to follow Christ in this world and truly cease from sin, we are going to suffer for it. And then he brings up this matter of love again.
And above all things have fervent love among yourselves: for love shall cover the multitude of sins (1 Pt. 4.8).
I noticed in my Greek Interlinear bible that the article is there; it reads, “have the fervent love among yourselves.” Peter has a specific love in mind. I think it can only be the very love of Christ he has in mind, the fervent love of Christ who in His love for us was stretched out on a cross for us.
The Greek word for fervent actually means stretched out, meaning intensely strained, as if on the rack. And Peter urges us that this same intense fervent love be among us.
In fact at the beginning of his letter he has already called for this. “See that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently…” Let’s look at this more closely.
Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently,
Being born again… (1 Pt. 1.22,23).
So, love is the evidence of the new birth. How is it, then, that even among those who lay claim to the new birth there has been so much… let’s just call it opposite-of-love? But Peter says it’s a purified soul that shows unfeigned fervent love. It’s possible to be born again and still carnal. The born again person must grow and be purified of all carnality. And so when we are not walking in love, it’s because of the impurities in our heart—selfish ambition, self love, the lusts of other things….
But God has something that is able to deal with all that carnality—the fiery trial that Peter has been talking about all through his letter. Here’s the much-quoted passage. And notice the word Peter uses to begin it.
Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you;
But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad with exceeding joy (1 Pt. 4.13,14).
We are loved, brothers and sisters. Let us love one another, then, with stretched-out love.