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: Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.
– I Peter 1:22-23
We all feel the pulls of everyday life in every direction for every purpose. Whether it is to help this person or that, or learn this process at work or that, or get this kid to this practice or game and the other to another, the pulling seems to never stop. We get stretched to the max!
The events in our lives that stretch us to the max probably will not stop (at least not until we stop), but that is not the focus. The focus, as Peter brings out in these two verses, is the driving force behind that maximum stretch. Peter is addressing believers as he notes in verse 23, “being born again” and he encourages them by writing that their love of the brethren is without criticism (literally: without under judgment for you Greek scholars – ἀνυπόκριτος). They love the brethren (philadelphia) wonderfully, and they do so in obedience of the truth through the power of the Spirit; but he does not desire them to stop there.
The last statement of verse 22 is a command to add to that philadelphia (φιλαδελφία) a different kind of love, agape (ἀγάπη). The action of agape is qualified with a prepositional phrase providing a condition of the heart (pure) and an adverb providing capacity (fervently). In a previous post agape was given a working definition, and it is in application here also; however, fervently is the focal point for us today.
The Greek behind the English term “fervently” is a compound term made of a preposition (ek – ἐκ) and an adverb (tenos – τενῶς). The preposition is the concept of “from or out of” in a transitive sense so the result is to be “wholly out” and the adverb carries the idea of “stretch” providing the complete thought of “stretch wholly out,” hence, “stretched to the max.”
Pictorially, it is like taking a rubber band and stretching it to the point right before it snaps. Or maybe a better one would be when you stretch your legs before you go for a run or exercise. The first day you stretch to the max, you feel the pain, that burn, as you pull that muscle out to the fullest point you can bear. Over time, that point gets deeper and deeper into that stretched position. You find yourself reaching the toes, then going past the toes, and so on.
The condition and capacity have been discussed; the last point is the capability. We, as Christians are born again of incorruptible seed by the word of God which lives and abides forever. It is because of that fact that we have the capability to love the brethren (philadelphia – φιλαδελφία) without criticism AND love (agape – ἀγάπη) stretched to the max.
Events in our lives stretch us, but what is the purpose behind those events? Are we choosing the right events to stretch us out? Do they show the agape as Peter exhorts? Each of us are at different points in our walk with the LORD and as such our max stretches are going to vary. The point is to not just accept the status quo on your stretches. From time to time, a little pain or burn is a good thing. Do you feel the burn of stretching your agape to the max? To God be the glory!