Persecution Project is doing a tremendous ministry in Darfur even as most ministries are pulling out due to the ever increasing violence. Please pray for them and consider partnering with their ministry.
By obedience to the truth, having purified yourselves for sincere love of the brothers, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again —not of perishable seed but of imperishable—through the living and enduring word of God. – I Peter 1:22, 23 (HCSB)
I have often thought of the”imperishable seed” as speaking only of our eternal life with Christ. Taking a fresh look at the passage above, it appears there is more to it than this. Peter says that we are to love each other from a pure heart, born of an imperishable seed. There seems to be an implication that we are to love each other with the same eternal love that Christ loves us. Few would doubt that Christ’s love for us is eternal, without measure or end. Having His seed in us means that we also should love without measure or end. It is easy to “love for a little while”, but then to stop when the object of the love continues to be unresponsive to that love. But just as we are to forgive someone seventy times seven times (Matthew 18:21-23), I believe we are to love them seventy times seven times as well. Ironically it was Peter who asked the question about how many times we should forgive someone; now he writes about how we should love one another. Perhaps his conversation with Jesus was on his mind. Regardless, the principle is clear: we are to love everyone without motive and beyond measure.
It is admittedly much easier to love those to whom we are closest; it is much harder to love our enemies. Harder still, it seems, is to show this patient, unconditional love to complete strangers. Yet we are commanded to show this love to the homeless, the hungry, the addicts, the poor, the murderers. For Christians, demonstrating this kind of love is not optional. If we belong to Christ, this love is the seed within our very soul. It isn’t that we should love in this manner, it is that we must. Let us approach each day with eyes wide open to the needs of everyone around us, and let us fill those needs with the love of Christ.
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will place My Spirit within you and cause you to follow My statutes and carefully observe My ordinances. – Ezekiel 6:26, 27 (HCSB)
If we are truly followers of Christ, there will be evidence of a change in the way we live. God tells us that He will give us hearts that love. No longer will we be able to coldly look at the poor and homeless around us; we will have a heart that breaks for the injustice around us. We have a new heart, one full of compassion and mercy.
In the same way, God has given a new Spirit to guide us. Above all we will desire to follow all that Christ has told us to do. Again, what He has told us to do is to feed the hungry, care for those in need and free those who are oppressed in any way. Our implementation of these desires is often lacking but the point is that, above all, these are our desires.
God instills this new heart in all of His people. Having this new heart does not instantly transform us into perfectly loving people; as God has made us creatures of free will, it is still up to us to utilize the gift He has given us. For those of us who find it difficult at times to show love to others, we should be greatly encouraged to realize that love is our new nature. God has embedded His love into our core. If we truly love Him, if we truly seek to serve and live for Him, we will relentlessly strive to unleash that love onto the world around us.
As He was speaking, a Pharisee asked Him to dine with him. So He went in and reclined at the table. When the Pharisee saw this, he was amazed that He did not first perform the ritual washing before dinner. But the Lord said to him: “Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and evil. Fools! Didn’t He who made the outside make the inside too? But give to charity what is within, and then everything is clean for you. – Luke 11:37-41 (HCSB)
How often are we as Christians guilty of being so focused on our outward appearance that we totally neglect our inward spiritual health? As long as people see us doing and saying the right things, as long as we look spiritual to those around us, we are content with our dedication to Christ. But this isn’t dedication at all; rather it is pharisaical. God has no more tolerance for such hypocrisy now than Jesus did when He walked among us.
It is time we rid ourselves of the kind of Christianity that is focused on ritual and tradition, the kind of Christianity that is focused on a list of do’s and don’ts. What matters to God is our inward cleanliness and our inward attitude. If we are seeking to love others and to serve them in that love, then we will achieve the outward appearance of holiness that we are so desperately trying to project by our current piety. Jesus never called us to strive to be worthy of Him; rather, He called us to love everyone we encounter, to serve them and show them mercy.
When we learn to love as Christ loved, from the inside out, our outside will shine just as brightly as our love from within. People will notice. They won’t be able to help but notice. This is the kind of worship our Lord demands and demonstrated in His own life. Let’s reject all forms of outward devotion and learn to let our devotion be self evident by the love of Christ we extend to others.
“No one lights a lamp and puts it in the cellar or under a basket, but on a lampstand, so that those who come in may see its light. Your eye is the lamp of the body. When your eye is good, your whole body is also full of light. But when it is bad, your body is also full of darkness. Take care then, that the light in you is not darkness. If therefore your whole body is full of light, with no part of it in darkness, the whole body will be full of light, as when a lamp shines its light on you.” – Luke 11:33-36 (HCSB)
Why does Christ focus on the eye in this passage? It has always read a bit strange to me. If our eye is the lamp, how do we control the amount of light we give off? For most of us, our eyes are on the front lines of everything we experience. As we weave in and out of our daily lives, it is the eye that receives much of our input and triggers reactions in the brain. Those triggers store images and feelings and launch reactions. The things we see will affect everything we are. If we allow our eyes to constantly look upon sinful things, our light will dim; as we look only on things that darken our light, we ourselves will be darkened. If we rather train our eyes to only look on good and holy things, the light of those things will enhance our own light. The things we take in directly affect our ability to reflect God (the light) to others. Therefore, the things we allow ourselves to be exposed to become of the utmost importance. If we are constantly exposed to light, then the inevitable exposure to anything dark will immediately be drowned out by the light, and the same light will reveal a path around the darkness. Since exposure to sin is virtually guaranteed in our dark world, we must be very careful and certain to only look upon light things whenever we have a choice. This will protect us when we must navigate the darkness.