For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. – 2 Peter 1:5-7
This is quite a list of godly characteristics that Peter offers here in this passage. It starts with faith – which is essential. Without faith it is impossible to please God. Without faith the adornments of virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection or love have nothing to adorn. They lie scattered as a meaningless assortment of good things without true purpose or function. For faith sets the stage for all these other virtues, and offers a foundation from which to launch and a direction in which these good things are to be deployed.
Peter, moreover, leaves love for last. I sense that is not because love is least important in his mind. He would surely concur with Paul that while faith, hope, and love abide, the greatest of those three is love. Jesus said that if we love one another we prove ourselves to be his disciples. Peter leaves love to last perhaps because it is the crown, the acme, the ultimate expression of true faith.
Three things come to mind in regard to the outgrowth of love in the life of a believer. First, as Bob Goff says, “Love Does.” Love acts. It doesn’t stand idly by. It does not wait to move toward those in need. Fear paralyzes. Anger incites. Selfishness and greed protects possessions and self. Love, however, acts. Love is moved by others’ needs and moves us to do something. Love will never cause us to ring our hands or fret. Love does.
Love also looks. After a recent meeting I attended one of the attendees fell and hit his head quite hard. He was on the ground, disoriented, and in at least some pain. Some people went directly to him. Some people turned away and backed away. Whether in fear, anxiety, or just to stay away from the blood and pain. Those who loved the man drew near to him. We helped him up. We asked about his wellbeing. We offered paper towels to wipe away the blood. Those who love do not look away. The move in.
Love feels. Love starts in the heart. It begins with a softness toward others – not only in times when the bloom is on the rose; when we’re in happy places – but also when there are trials and challenges before us. Love does not close its heart to the pain of others. It opens its heart to much pain and suffering. Love puts us in a place where we even be hurt for the sake of another.
There are certainly other ways in which love is seen and expressed. A kind touch. A word of favor and blessing. A thoughtful gift. An investment of time. An act of service. These are a few ways in which love is shown. In whatever way we express love, if it is an adornment of faith and accompanied by the virtues named here, Peter promises that our faith will make a difference. That is a subject for tomorrow.