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If we read through the New Testament with our minds alert we will notice a recurring concept expressed in a wide variety of ways. This concept is that God commands us to be what we are – to express in our lives the changed reality that is now in place because of our union with Jesus Christ.

For example:

In Matthew 5:13 Jesus tells us we ‘are the salt of the earth’ and commands us to be salty.

In Matthew 5:14-16 Jesus tells us we ‘are the light of the world’ and commands us to shine.

In John 13:34 Jesus tells us we are loved, and commands us to love one another.

In 2Corinthians 5:16-6:1 Paul tells us that God has reconciled us to himself through the death of Jesus, and commands us to be reconciled to God, to live in the joy and peace of that reconciliation, rather than receiving this gift of reconciliation in vain.

In Galatians 5:1 Paul tells us that we have been set free, and commands us to live in that freedom, and never again to allow anyone to bring us into bondage.

In Ephesians 4:32 Paul tells us that we are forgiven, and commands us to be forgiving.

In Ephesians 5:1 Paul tells us that we are God’s dearly loved children, and commands us to be like our Father.

In Ephesians 5:8 Paul tells us that we ‘are light in the Lord’ and commands us to ‘live as children of light’, refusing to participate in the darkness that surrounds us.

In Colossians 3:1-5 Paul tells us that we have died with Christ, and commands us to put to death everything inconsistent with our new life in Christ.

In 1Peter 1:2 Peter tells us that we have been sanctified [made holy] by the Spirit, and in verse 15 commands us to be holy.

In 1John 1:6 John tells us that if we live in Christ, then we should live as Jesus lived.

Now Peter, in 1:22 tells us that because we actually do have sincere love for our fellow believers we should love each other deeply, from the heart. At first this seems a bit puzzling, but this puzzle is solved by looking at the Greek words.

Firstly, Peter tells us that our right response to the truth has resulted in ‘sincere’, that is unhypocritical [the word is anupokritos], ‘brotherly love’ [the word is philadelphia]. Our union with Jesus Christ has also united us with all other genuine believers: we are all in Christ, we are all children of God, we are all members of the kingdom of Christ. There is a family unity and a family allegiance between believers, despite the fact that there is also diversity and disagreement. We love other believers, just because they also belong to Jesus, just because they are precious to Jesus. That is a fact. If it is not a fact then our confession of allegiance to Christ is questionable.

Secondly, Peter commands us to love [the word is agapao – which is the word used of God loving us] one another ‘deeply’ [the word is ektenos – which means intensely, fervently], and ‘from the heart’, or, as some ancient manuscripts read ‘from a pure heart’. This love that Peter commands takes us beyond the love that he says already exists. It is an intense, enduring love, like the love of God. It arises from deep within the heart.

So Peter is saying to us: you do love your fellow believers, so really love them. Love them intensely. Love them without limit. Love them as God has loved you.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2018