The importance of being earnest
Seeing ye 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. 1 Peter 1:22
It is important to note that Peter is very interested here in how we exhibit the love of the brethren: we are to do so sincerely (the meaning of "unfeigned") and earnestly (or "fervently"). The exhortation to sincerity reminds us that it is often very easy to be fake in our profession of love to the brothers. It is not enough simply to profess that we love the brothers. It has to be backed up with the love of our hearts and the actions of our hands. That can be very difficult sometimes, but let us remember that the basis of this command is the imperishable word of God that powerfully works in our hearts to create conformity to Christ. We have no excuse to settle for anything less; indeed, we must not. For an insincere love is no love at all. Sincerity is essential because if we are not, then our love will not last very long. A. W. Pink once said, “False love is glad of any specious excuse for the throwing off the garb that sits so loosely and uncomfortably upon it.” So let us be sincere.
Second, we are to love the saints earnestly. The apostle in fact comes back to this in 4:8: “And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.” Our love is not to be fake, neither is it to be half-hearted. Peter’s reason points to the fact that we are sinners still; we are redeemed sinners, sanctified sinners, but sinners still. And because of that, we are going to sin against each other. Now I don’t think that covering sins here means that we ignore them. But even when sins are dealt with, unless we are earnest in our love, it is so easy to let bitterness invade our hearts and as a result shut the brother or sister who sinned against us out. We cannot let that happen. If that is happening in your heart, it is because you are simply not obeying this simple exhortation.
If you tell me you cannot obey it, I have one word for you: if that is true, then you are not born again. It’s as simple as that.
So let us love the brethren. As it is put simply and succinctly in Heb. 13:1, “Let brotherly love continue.” Don’t let it stop. Love is the thread that is intertwined throughout the entire fabric of the Christian ethic. It falls apart without it. The apostle Paul ends his first epistle to the Corinthians with the words, “Let all that you do be done in love” (1 Cor. 16:14, ESV). And as we remember love that our Lord has for us, let us also remember that that love is meant to be replicated, first and foremost in the church.