2 Peter 1:7 “and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.”
God invites the entire world to come to Him, find salvation in His Son, and enjoy abundant and eternal life (John 3:16). Some heed and obey the call and are added to God’s elect people. But not everyone accepts His amazingly generous and gracious invitation, and even some of those who initially accept the call reject the Lord’s calling and election (Matt. 13:19ff) through disobedience, distraction, complacency, persecution, or neglect. And this is precisely why Peter was concerned to write to disciples of the first century.
So we’ve been tracing through Peter’s list of virtues (2 Peter 1:5-7), traits that need our attention, our diligence, and our nurture—because we all need to take care that we don’t stumble, so that “entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied” to us (v. 11). And now one last virtue is left on Peter’s list to add to our faith: love.
The Greek word here is agape, the Greeks’ highest and noblest word for love. Now some Greek linguists have argued that some of the words for love in the Greek language, including agape, are interchangeable. This could be true in some contexts, but when agape is right next to another word for love, brotherly love, philadelphia, we can be certain that the higher and nobler meaning of agape is what Peter had in mind.
Here is a love that is much more than a human emotion, more than a short-term flutter of the heart, more than sexual attraction, more than family loyalty. Here is a word that involves the mind, but not in a cold and calculating “Vulcan” sort of way. Rather it is a decision—sometimes involving great courage, sometimes operating against one’s own self-interest—in which an evaluation of what is truly in another person’s best interest is made and acted upon, regardless of the feelings of the moment.
This is a kind of love that is beyond an affection for those near and dear to us; it is one that we must have for all mankind. It is the only kind of love that exists that can be genuinely exercised to benefit neighbors far and near, enemies, persecutors, irritating people, the foreigner, and the lost of all mankind. It is a decision to act in the best interest of both the Jew and Gentile, those in authority and those of humble circumstance, the black and white, the young and old, the educated and uneducated, the citizen and the criminal, the sinful and the moral, the religious and the irreligious, and those with whom we agree and with whom we strongly disagree.
And not only must we choose this love and exercise it; but remember, we need to be increasing in it, too (v. 8). So, how do we do that? Here’s a suggestion…
One of my favorite passages about love is Ephesians 3:17-19:
“so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.”
Did you notice? We’re encouraged to use our imagination to try to grasp God’s and Christ’s love, as if it were something concrete. What a challenge, because what an immense love it is!
- breadth—a love so wide as to include all men, including every sinner, of every era.
- length—a love for mankind, seen in God’s plan of salvation, conceived from before the beginning of time, winding through all of history, and even trailing off beyond time into eternity.
- height—a love so noble, so holy, that it was able to rise above the righteous fury caused by the offense of sin, and offer grace to unworthy sinners anyway.
- depth—a love so humbly serving that it would wash feet, touch lepers, and die an excruciating, humiliating death for every sinner who would believe.
Now, while Paul impresses and encourages us with Christ’s love, this passage also gives a challenge to us. In John 13:34 Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” OK, so here’s a path to increase in agape love: aim to attain the width, length, height, and depth of the love of the Savior. That’ll stretch anyone—for a lifetime.