Think for a minute about anything you’ve experienced intensely: a thrilling movie, perhaps, or an engrossing discussion. Maybe a hard-fought competition or an emotional situation that left you feeling either completely drained or newly alive. That’s how Peter urges us to love one another.
It sounds intimidating, doesn’t it? At least until we remember that God’s love for us is more intense than any love we could possibly have for other people—and that it’s his love in us that enables us to love intensely.
So what does “intense” love look like? Forgiving someone as often as God has forgiven us, even for a repeated offense. Showing someone kindness in spite of his indifference or hard-heartedness. Looking after an ailing family member with the same devotion that God has for you. Showing a special concern for the poor, the marginalized, and the underprivileged. Now that’s intense!
If your first inclination is to dismiss this command as unattainable, you’re on the right track. But remember, what is impossible for us is more than possible for God. So the best way to start is to ask your heavenly Father to show you his love in a more tangible way. Ask him to help you find glimpses of it during your day: words of encouragement that come to your mind, a sense of wonder at the beauty of nature, a nudge to help a neighbor, anything positive and inspiring. Then, when you find something, thank him right then and there. For that one moment, let his love wash over you and bring you peace.
Receiving God’s love like this can soften your heart. It can humble you and move you to treat other people as God has just treated you.
Remember, too, that change occurs over time, so don’t think you have to be perfect right away. As God’s love increases in you, you will be able to draw from that reservoir to show that love to the people around you. Then, as you stretch yourself to be more loving, God will refill and refresh you. Remember: you can never outdo God in generosity, in love, or in intensity!
“Father, thank you for loving me intensely. Teach me how to be more loving.”
Psalm 147:12-15, 19-20