In a nation divided, and once again bearing the weight of it’s original sin, the sweet aroma of Christ should have been made all the more fragrant. The display of our love for each other across the boundaries that have, before Christ, proven impassable should have declared His supremacy. The ancient hostilities having been put to death in the Church, through the cross, should have made known the multicolored wisdom of God. The unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, should have leapt off the cultural canvas, setting off the uniqueness and worth of Jesus, the Christ. But sadly, again, it was not to be.
To be fair, there were pockets of unity. There were small displays of love. In some places, people, pastors, and churches, across ethnic lines, came together. They came to express their love for one another in genuine ways. But it wasn’t enough; not enough to overcome our public face of disunity and loveless division along color lines. The answer to why has been haunting me for some time; stifling me from writing about anything else. It won’t let me go. Where is the love that should have declared to the world that we are followers of Christ?
Or Do You Not Know
22 Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart, 23 for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.1 Peter 1:22–23 (NAS)
I had been many years into my individual and personal walk with Jesus before the reality of passages like this began to settle on me. In hindsight, it should have been an easy truth to recognize, but the world has it’s subtle ways of squeezing you into it’s mold. And this culture’s mold is individualism.
There is a fundamental relationship between love for one another and the word that was preached to us and that gave us new life. It’s not that we were saved by believing the Gospel and then commanded to love. No, there is something in the enduring nature of the word of God itself that makes a sincere love of the brethren not only possible but inevitable. In fact, salvation is described as a purification of our souls for the purpose of a sincere love for each other. It’s what we are saved to do.
When I believed the word of God, regrettably, I had in view a love relationship between me and God alone. The whole experience was personal; just me and the Lord. What a worldly and inadequate view of the Gospel. No wonder we have a love problem. This passage says that love for others should have not only been in view, but a part of my reason for salvation. I should have known that I was being saved by the love of God in order to love you. We should love one another fervently from the heart, or do we not know that we are born of the imperishable seed for this very reason?
The Fruit Of The Seed
1 Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, 2 like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, 3 if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.1 Peter 2:1–3 (NAS)
So where is the problem? Or better yet, where is the answer? I was all set to encourage you to love. I was set to challenge you to live out the reason for which you were saved, assuming the recognition alone would be enough. But I would be calling you in vain to love. It’s not like we don’t know we should love each other. But the capacity to love is not from you, it’s in the imperishable seed of the word within you.
Sensing the struggle of his own audience to love fervently, Peter doesn’t simply ask them to try harder. But recognizing the unique quality of the word itself, he exhorts them to long for it. Long for the enduring word of God, like newborns long for pure milk. The passage suggests that what we are lacking is not effort, but an appropriate appetite for the word of God and a sincere love of the brethren is the fruit of the seed of the word. It also suggests that an appropriate appetite is not an adult appetite for milk, but a newborn babe appetite. It’s a life dependent appetite.
Peter uses one word here that I believe is most significant. It’s the word translated “pure.” So many of us sincerely believe we have an appetite for the word. We also generally believe our pastors preach the word. But Peter voices a concern even for his readers when he asks them to long for the pure milk of the word.
The word means without fraud, genuine, or unadulterated and in this sense, pure. For even in Peter’s day some were preaching an adulterated word, and the love which comes from the pure milk of the word was suffering. Needless to say, we live in a culture that longs for an adulterated word.
We long for a word that is familiar and that points us in the direction we are already committed to moving. We long for a word that does not ask us to do the really hard things in life; to be long-suffering, to endure hardship, to consider others as more important than ourselves. We long for a word that gives us permission to seek our own fulfillment; to love ourselves first; indulge in self-care. We long for an adulterated word that allows duel citizenship in both Kingdom and Country. We long for an adulterated word that allows us to sit comfortably in ethnically homogeneous congregation within ethnically diverse communities. We long for an adulterated word.
The grass withers and the flowers fad, but the word of our God endures forever. It remains a seed that brings life and love. It has not lost its power to purified souls for a sincere love of the brethren. So where is the love? Well maybe it’s our appetite that has failed. If we long for the pure milk of the word, I believe we will find it. If you have not already begun to question your own appetite, then you have missed the point. If you have not already considered whether the word you’re getting is adulterated, then I have not succeeded. I believe the Lord has given the word that we may have it. We simply cannot continue to accept anything less than the pure milk.