Over the last 17 months, I’ve been slowly crawling my way through the passage in 2 Peter 1:3, 5-8, where Peter lays out God’s steps to success. Well, we’ve finally arrived at the ultimate goal: love. All the lessons about goodness, gaining knowledge of God, learning self-control and perseverance, learning to see things God’s way, and seeing people from God’s point of view finally have purpose when we begin to love as God loves.
It takes love to produce lasting fruit—effective and productive ministry. Without it, we might know about Jesus, but our knowledge is useless. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, without love we are nothing.
Much of the time, I’m not very good at loving. It’s hard to let go of my own selfish desires and seek only for the good of another. It’s hard to remember that the person in front of me is precious in God’s sight. It’s hard to lay down my life.
Yet, just as all of Scripture focuses on Jesus in one form or another, it is also permeated by the love of God. When Jesus was asked which commandment was the greatest, He replied, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:36-40)
Sitting down to write this post, I realized that I could spend the rest of my life thinking and writing about this. What does it mean to love God with all my heart? How is that different from loving Him with all my soul? Is going to school, earning a degree, searching out the mysteries of creation all part of loving God with my mind? How else can I love Him? This passage doesn’t mention loving God with all my strength, but that’s in the original passage in Deuteronomy 6:5. How do I do that?
The second commandment is even harder. If I struggle to love God, who is perfect, good, loving, and righteous, how much more do I struggle to love flawed, selfish, sinful people—like myself?
Praying to become more loving is one of those dangerous prayers. God will answer—but you might not enjoy the lesson. Just as patience comes from times of waiting and faith comes from uncertain circumstances, we learn to love the unlovable by serving them. If you pray for more love, don’t be surprised if your life is suddenly full of difficult people!
At this point, I have more questions than answers, more failure than success. It’s good that God trains us step by step, instead of expecting as immediate transformation. I’m sure I’ll be learning this lesson forever.