Peter wrote this letter to Christians who felt that the world was turning against them, and he wanted to help them think more clearly about how Christians can live in a world whose values are antithetical to theirs. So we’re taking several Sundays to walk through this important letter together.
In the first two verses Peter introduces a theme that he’ll return to repeatedly: Christians live as exiles in a strange land. Yet, the apostle suggests, God will help us live in ways that make a difference.
In much of this letter, Peter will tell the church about how Christians can engage a skeptical world, but before he does that he wants them to understand the importance of healthy relationships within the church.
So in our text for Sunday (included above), Peter tells them to “love one another.” I’ve known of churches who had arguing, division, and strife within the membership, and inevitably it leaked out to the community. It’s obvious what kind of effect a divided, contentious church has on a world that gets enough of that at work or school. Peter probably remembered something striking that Jesus told him and the other apostles on the eve of the Lord’s crucifixion: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).
So perhaps unsurprisingly, Peter tells the church first to have the right attitudes toward one another. A divided church will never win the world for Christ.
Love is, after all, the natural outgrowth of the new birth experience. We were born again to love, so that’s what we naturally do. And when we do that, we get rid of “all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander” (2:1).
On Sunday, I plan to encourage our congregation to remember that if we are to live as exiles in a strange land and hope to do good, it begins with healthy, loving relationships within the body.