“Unfeigned love of the brethren”

The title is part of 1 Peter 1:22, which reads, “Seeing you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently”. The word, ‘unfeigned’ is used four times in the bible: one other time in reference to love as here, and twice to describe true faith. It is a very demanding word for the serious christian. We are commanded to love one another; not just those we like, but all who are Christ’s. We are to love them because they are Christ’s; and we have to love them unfeignedly, that is, sincerely. Let us look more closely at this word.

To put it in the simplest language, unfeigned love is sincere love; love without pretence; love which is true and unstained with hypocrisy. In fact the word in the original language, translates simply as ‘without hypocrisy’. This standard of love is very high, even for those who are in a state of grace, that is, people who are RightWithGod through Jesus Christ. Christ Himself was the only one ever who was able to practise this love perfectly, and His command to us His people is, “That ye love one another, as I have loved you” (John 13:34). His love was truly unfeigned love; it was perfect love which had no trace of hypocrisy in it. That is the standard that He set for us. We must never stop trying to reach this standard, although we will never reach it in this life. This quest makes us long for heaven where we will be separated from sin forever, and be able to love Christ and one another with unfeigned love.

However, while we are in this world, the verse we are looking at, 1 Peter 1: 22 gives us some help. The striving towards unfeigned love is part of the general quest for holiness, which the christian is constantly engaged in, namely,  purifying our souls. This purification received a great initial impetus at conversion, when we obeyed the truth of the gospel, but it continues until the end of life. None of this would be possible without the help of the Holy Spirit who helps our weaknesses, and makes things possible for us that would otherwise be impossible to us. However, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we are enabled to progress in holiness, and this works toward the “unfeigned love of the brethren”, loving one another “with a pure heart fervently”.

All this would be quite impossible for us, except that when w received Christ, we received the Holy Spirit to be a permanent resident within us. There are many things laid upon us as christians, which we could not by nature even begin to strive for, which become things that we can sincerely strive towards, due to the help of the Holy Spirit, such as loving one another with love unfeigned. That is the way that He loved us, and if we wish to see that love in its ultimate expression, we must go to the cross and see Him suffering, the sinless One for condemned sinners, the Just for the unjust, the Rich for the poor.

 

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