Sojourn: Toward an Enduring City
22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, 23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; 24 for
“All flesh is like grass
and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
and the flower falls,
25 but the word of the Lord remains forever.”
And this word is the good news that was preached to you.
11:1 Now the apostles and the brothers who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. 2 So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcision party criticized him, saying, 3 “You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.” 4 But Peter began and explained it to them in order: 5 “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision, something like a great sheet descending, being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to me. 6 Looking at it closely, I observed animals and beasts of prey and reptiles and birds of the air. 7 And I heard a voice saying to me, ‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat.’8 But I said, ‘By no means, Lord; for nothing common or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ 9 But the voice answered a second time from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, do not call common.’10 This happened three times, and all was drawn up again into heaven. 11 And behold, at that very moment three men arrived at the house in which we were, sent to me from Caesarea. 12 And the Spirit told me to go with them, making no distinction. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house. 13 And he told us how he had seen the angel stand in his house and say, ‘Send to Joppa and bring Simon who is called Peter; 14 he will declare to you a message by which you will be saved, you and all your household.’ 15 As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. 16 And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’17 If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” 18 When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.”
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright (c)2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. http://www.esv.org
In 1959, journalist Mike Wallace interviewed the philosopher Ayn Rand. Rand, the so-called “mother of objectivism,” is perhaps best known for promoting self-interest as a virtue. Concerned by this, Wallace said, “Christ and every important moral leader in history has taught us that we should love one another. Why then, is this kind of love – in your mind – immoral?” Rand replied, “It is immoral if it is a love placed one above oneself. It is more than immoral – it’s impossible.” While Rand’s strident advocacy of self-interest once seemed confusing or offensive, it is an increasingly common view today. Sadly, this is just one of many contemporary distortions of the Bible’s teaching on love.
In a radical contrast to Rand, the Apostle Peter tells Christians to “love one another earnestly from a pure heart (1 Peter 1:22).” Meditate on those concepts for a moment: love for other believers that is earnest; love that comes from a heart that is pure. Is your heart really pure and undefiled? Doesn’t your heart still produce sinful thoughts, words, and deeds? And can you really love someone earnestly – with deep, sincere goodwill? And even if you can love someone that way, is there anyone among us who really deserves that kind of love or who has even received that kind of love? Maybe Ayn Rand was right in one way; maybe the Bible’s vision for selfless love really is impossible.
By God’s grace, this selfless, holy love that Peter commands is possible. It is possible for us as Christians because we have in fact received that kind of love. We have received it in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. We have responded to that love in repentance and faith, and have been “born again (1 Peter 1:23).” Our old, sinful hearts and habits have been radically transformed by “the good news” of the gospel of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:25). This does not make sincere brotherly love easy, but it does make it possible and we do have the model par excellance for selfless love in Jesus. As the Apostle John says, “We love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).” So let us look to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). For the more earnest and pure our faith-filled gaze at Christ is, the more earnest and pure our faith for each other will be.