1 Peter 1:22-25
Call to love the Brothers and Sisters
22 Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart. 23 For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. 24 For,
“All people are like grass,
and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall,
25 but the word of the Lord endures forever.”
And this is the word that was preached to you.
The Greek of verse 22 is literally ‘having purified your souls’, and commentators are generally agreed that it is a reference to the process of conversion which is completed by baptism. It is worth noting that as in John 11:55; Acts 21:24, 26; 2:18; James 4:8 and 1 John 3:3, the verb ‘purify’ is used in an active sense; it is what we do to be in a right relationship with God. The perfect tense – ‘have purified’ – indicates something done in the past but with continuing effects; there is no sense in which it could be read as ‘once saved, always saved’ – salvation is an ongoing process.
Why have we purified ourselves? For ‘sincere’ mutual love. Our common baptism directs us towards the command we are told was uttered by the aged St. John when he was asked to summarise the message of Christ: ‘Little children, love one another.’ Peter, another hearer of the Word tells us likewise emphasising, as he will do in 2:17 and 4:8 that the love must be for the whole community and must be intense – heart-felt.
The foundation of that love is revealed in verse 23 – it comes from the abiding and living word of God in whom we are born anew. We are reminded here of what Peter said to the Lord as recorded in John 6:68: ‘You have the words of eternal life’.
The word is the seed, as Luke tells us in 8:11: ‘the seed is the word of God’. And it (and thus we) are born not of the flesh, but by the Spirit (John 1:13). In citing Isaiah 406-8 (though writing ‘the word of the lord remains forever’ instead of ‘the word of our God’, Peter adapts the text to speak of Christ. He tells us that that word had been ‘proclaimed’ to us, using the word euangelizo – that is ‘to proclaim the good news’.
There is, in all of this, a real call to us in our time. We have elevated individual choice and preference to almost the status of an idol. But Peter reminds us that in becoming a Christian we cannot choose our brothers and sisters; like us they are chosen by God. We, like they, enter a new household. We are called to something else our society finds difficult – a stable and secure love which does not fade. But we are told we can do this because God’s living and abiding Word is active in us.
We have been born again, but Peter makes it clear that the fruits of this are something we need to work at gathering; we have not simply been made better people; we need to work with the Spirit that is within us. True, Christian love, is not an ephemeral emotion; it is the outpouring of the Spirit which is in us.