The final characteristic Peter urges us to add to our faith is love. Love is the finest quality of God that we must seek to duplicate in our lives. John, who is often called the apostle of love, wrote, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7) To love as God has loved will take our whole lives to develop. This love will motivate us to add and strengthen the other characteristics.
Great love will strengthen our faith for we will endure many trials for the God whom we love. Our love for God, and the desire to be like Him, will motivate us to perfect moral excellence in our lives. Our knowledge should grow because, since we love God, we would want to know all we can about Him and His will for us. We will gain strength for self-control because we do not want to disappoint God and we know the importance of self-control in developing holiness. Our love for God will cause us to persevere amid trials, fatigue, and persecutions because we know Jesus persevered through His love for us. Love is certainly the motivation behind godliness because as our love grows, our focus centers on God.
Finally, love strengthens our brotherly kindness because, as John said, “…he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” (1 John 4:20).
Love does not depend on the recipient loving us in return. God loved us when we were rebellious against Him, Romans 5:8. Jesus died on the cross while those for whom He died mocked Him and spat upon Him. We will sometimes show great love towards others and receive very little love (perhaps even hatred) in return. When this happens to us, we get a small idea of God’s love for us. If we love others so that we may receive love, we miss the point of love.
Jesus commanded us to love our enemies. As noted before, God loved us, and Jesus died for us, while we were sinners—rebels. Jesus said, “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” Matthew 5:44-45. It is a difficult command to love those who abuse us. Jesus forgave His enemies who nailed Him to the cross and, while on the cross, saved the thief that at one time mocked Him. If our Savior showed this love, we must too. If we only love those who love us, what do we do more than others? Matthew 5:47.
We must have sacrificial love. God’s love was so strong that He gave His Son to die for us, John 3:16. Imagine a love that would require you to give your son. Abraham was prepared to offer Isaac at the command of God. His love was such that he would withhold nothing from God. Yet Abraham knew the character of God and expected that God could even raise Isaac from the dead if he wanted, Hebrews 11:17-19. We must sacrifice our time to do the will of God and to strengthen these characteristics in our lives. We must sacrifice our money in order to help the work of the Lord. We must sacrifice some relationships if they will draw us away from God. We must sacrifice ourselves because ultimately our love for God should be greater than our love for self. Moreover, in losing ourselves in God, we will find ourselves.
Finally, we should love souls as God does. We should want all men to be saved and act consistently with that goal. We should teach those who are lost and reach out to those who are erring (James 5:19-20; Jude 22). Whether we are teaching, rebuking, or arguing our case from the word of God, we must speak in love (2 Timothy 2:22-26; Ephesians 4:15).
It is an eternal characteristic for “love never fails.”