The previous message focused on Jesus and several of his traits. His defining characteristic, however, was purposely saved for later discussion.
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. - 1 John 4:7-9God is love and Jesus is God who came in human form, so he too, is love. If we’ve truly added godliness to our Faith, then the end result should be the display of godly love. That is what Peter said in the order of operation he provided. However, when we look at Peter’s order, we see that he gave us a step in between godliness and love that he referred to as mutual affection.
To understand mutual affection and why Peter mentioned it, we have to acknowledge that love as God displays it and how he wants us to display it differs from how we typically display it. God’s love is unconditional. If we’re honest, in most cases, ours isn’t. Going from love with a multitude of conditions to love with no condition is undoubtedly a difficult thing to do. One condition, in particular, seems to be more prominent than others. By and large, we tend to love those that share the feeling for us. That is what mutual affection is, and though it is an imperfect form of love, Peter was telling us that it can be used as a stepping stone to the truest form of love.
Almost all of us understand mutual affection. We have parents, siblings, aunts/uncles, cousins, and, at some point, many of us grow and have our own children. The dynamics differ from person to person, but almost all of us have people in our lives that we love and that love us. With family, we don’t even have to do anything. That love is almost a biological imperative. Even those without traditional families can understand mutual affection. Over the course of our lives, we meet people that we connect with and that become our friends. The love we have for our friends is different from what we experience with our families. It tends to have to be developed and cultivated. Still, like with familial love, the love we share with our friends exists largely because its mutually held.
The Bible acknowledges these relationships and provides guidance on how we should behave in those relationships. The Bible instructs parents on how they should treat their children (Ephesians 6:4), on how children should act towards their parents (Ephesians 6:1-3), and how we should treat our siblings (Matthew 5:23-24). Jesus even comments on the greatest act of friendship (John 15:13). Mutual affection, though not the perfect form of love is important. It’s something we as humans, whether Believer or non-believer, can understand. If it’s something we already do, why would Peter mention it as something we should add to our Faith?
The reason is that mutual affection can be expanded in a way that opens the door for our understanding of true love. Jesus opened the path for that expansion. If our relationships within our families are our best examples of mutual affection, then one way to expand how we display mutual affection is to expand who we consider to be family. Jesus already provided the example for that.
While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.” He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” - Matthew 12:46-50The Body of Christ isn’t supposed to be some loose knit collection of people with similar beliefs. God expects us all to look at each other as members of the same family. He wants us to have the same love for our brothers and sisters in Christ that we have for our biological brothers and sisters. That is not an easy or automatic thing, but loving our Christian family is something we must do. When instructing the early Christians, Peter gave them the following charges:
Respect everyone, and love your Christian brothers and sisters. Fear God, and respect the king. - 1 Peter 2:17The difficulty involved with learning to love everyone within the Body of Christ is the reason we have to start to exhibit a state of godliness before we can truly take on the challenge. We are expected to hold affection for our fellow Believers even without a blood bond like we have with our biological family members. We are expected to hold affection for our fellow Believers even if we don’t share common interests and desires like we do with our friends. If we can learn to love our fellow Believers like brothers and sisters, then we will have learned how to condense love from something that typically has to fulfill numerous conditions down to something that only requires meeting one - belief in God. God’s love is unconditional. When we add mutual affection to our Faith, it means that our love only requires meeting that one condition. It's not the goal, but if we can accomplish that task, we will be closer to understanding love as God does. At that point, we will only be one step from achieving our end goal and fulfilling Peter’s order.