7The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. 8Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace:
11whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies--in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
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
They were unschooled tradesmen in the beginning, getting by in the north, near the border. They shared nothing at the start. The zealot was the sworn enemy of the tax collector, and the brothers from the fishing family jostled everyone and each other for position. Their unelected spokesman was impulsive and could be quick tempered. But they came together and traveled together and lived together; this unlikely band of unknowns. One of their number wasn't with them at the beginning. He was an intellectual "townie" from the south, and puffed up with self-righteous fury. He happily hunted and destroyed perceived enemies of his religiosity.
But something changed them. Years later one of those brothers, one of the "Sons of Thunder" would write love letters to far-away places he would have once despised. The fiery leader would implore his friends to submit to the very authorities who were murdering them. And the scholar? He continued to travel, but to teach, not terrorize. With only one sad exception, this peripatetic mob became galvanized into unified, widely dispersed couriers of eternal truth.
What made the change? They had nothing in the world to gain by forsaking their backgrounds, their homes, their prejudices. They suffered unimaginable hardships. And they spoke and wrote and lived lives of love. How did that happen? They were loved by Jesus. He called them, you see, every one of them. And He taught them and prayed for them, and right before He was crucified, He knelt in the dust and washed their filthy feet. Then He told them to love each other. Start there, He said, with each other.
The same thing happens to you and me. Called by Jesus, filled with the same Holy Spirit He told those disciples about, and basking in the breathtaking love of Christ, we begin to know what it means to love earnestly. We know because we have been loved earnestly. We begin to understand how that once murderous rabbi could write that "Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude." We can understand how the "disciple that Jesus loved" could teach us, "We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers." And we grasp the glorious magnitude of a forgiven and restored Peter reminding the church, "Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins." God's love in Christ changes us.