When we experience things that hurt, or things we don’t like, we can succumb to responses like sinful anger.
You want a peaceful car drive, but the kids in the backseat start fighting, and after the umpteenth time of asking them to settle down, your parental wrath comes out.
You ask your spouse to help set the table for dinner, but because they were distracted, they didn’t hear you say three times “Please use disposable plates.” When you notice they set the ceramic plates, your anger comes out.
Have you been there?
Peter knows our struggles when we experience tests of faith. These tests could be small things that annoy us, or they could be major things that cause deep pain. Like a gracious pastor, he understands our temptations. Yes, he calls us to “love one another deeply, from the heart” (1 Peter 1:22 NIV) when our faith gets tested with trials of various kinds. But because we struggle with this, he also motivates us by sharing three reasons why Christians ought to love each other. We see these reasons in 1 Peter 1:22-2:3.
You Already Have a Sincere Love
For Peter, the first reason we should “love one another deeply, from the heart,” is because we already “have sincere love for each other” (1 Peter 1:22 NIV).
Those who have trusted in the truth of the gospel—who have been purified and cleansed from sin through faith in Christ—now have a new, sincere love for each other.
Back in Old Testament times, God promised he would one day give his people new hearts (Jeremiah 31:31-24; Ezekiel 36:25-27). With these new hearts, God’s people would be enabled to love God, follow his commands, and do things like love their neighbors well. Being that this promise of a new heart is tied to the New Covenant, it’s a promise that has already been fulfilled for us in Christ. We—God’s people today—through faith in Christ, have new hearts that enable us to love sincerely, as Christ has loved us.
“Since you already have a sincere love for each other,” Peter is telling us, “just live like it!” We tend to act in unloving ways when things aren’t going well for us. So, like Paul in Romans 12:10 and Galatians 5:13, Peter calls us to love each other, but he tells us to do this by simply living out the sincere love for your fellow Christians that is already in our hearts.
The next time you’re tempted to snap at a fellow Christian, gossip about a fellow Christian, speak negatively about a fellow Christian, complain about a fellow Christian, etc., remember that you have a new heart with a sincere love for your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Act out of that sincere love instead.
You Have Been Born Again
A second reason for tried Christians to commit to love is their new birth in Christ. Peter tells us, “For you have been born again” (1 Peter 1:23 NIV). As you follow his thought process, you’ll notice his conclusion: “Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind” (1 Peter 2:1 NIV).
For Peter, the logical conclusion of having been graciously regenerated by the Holy Spirit—and given new birth into new spiritual life—is new living. As Paul similarly states, “If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV). What does this new way of living look like? According to Peter, it involves putting away the unloving things that sever relationships: things like malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander.
In our trials, we will be tempted to respond to fellow Christians with our old, sinful nature. But remember, you’ve been born again. You have a new nature, and it reflects the nature of Christ. So, take off the old, put on the new, and love by living out of your new birth instead.
You Have Tasted God’s Goodness
A third reason for tried Christians to commit to love is the sweetness of God’s goodness.
Peter tells us, “You have tasted that the Lord is good” (1 Peter 2:3 NIV). Because we’ve tasted—or experienced—God’s goodness to us through Christ, Peter concludes, “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk” (1 Peter 2:2 NIV).
In Peter’s analogy, in the same way infants crave milk because they’ve tasted its goodness, we, as Christians who’ve tasted God’s goodness, should crave “pure spiritual milk”. The question arises: What is pure spiritual milk?
In the New Testament, milk is sometimes used as a metaphor for basic principles and foundational truths for the Christian faith (1 Corinthians 3:1-2; Hebrews 5:12-14). Here in 1 Peter, milk is being used as a metaphor for God’s Word generally and the gospel specifically.
Now we can understand Peter’s analogy: Since we’ve tasted God’s goodness through the gospel—the message of God’s great love for us in Christ—let us therefore crave the gospel, so that by it we “may grow up in [our] salvation” (1 Peter 2:2 NIV). To Peter, the gospel is not only the means by which we’ve tasted the goodness of God, it’s also the means by which we grow. Especially as we consider the topic at hand, the gospel is the means by which we grow in love for each other.
If you want to be someone who loves others well, especially as your faith is tried and tested, just crave the gospel:
Point your own heart to the gospel continually.
Live a gospel-centered life daily.
Let the gospel drive how you live.
Because you’ve tasted God’s goodness through the gospel, seek the path that is in line with the gospel. When someone wrongs you, ask yourself, "What response is consistent with the gospel?" Would it be anger? Revenge? Or is there a better, gospel-driven response? Suppose you have a bad day at work. How could you respond to your family in a gospel-centered way when you arrive home? What response to our trials best aligns with the gospel, which reminds us of a Savior who humbly went to the cross, quietly walked to his death without defending himself, and lovingly died even for those who scoffed at him and shouted for his murderous crucifixion?
Can you see why Peter encourages us to crave the gospel? In the gospel, we have the most glorious example of love! So, keep tasting God’s goodness and keep growing in his love by pointing yourself to the transforming message of God’s love for us in Christ. As you do, you’ll find yourself not only enduring uncomfortable and painful tests of your faith, you’ll also find yourself walking in Christlike love.