Love is an indefinite thing to most of us; we don’t know what we mean when we talk about love. Love is the loftiest preference of one person for another, and spiritually Jesus demands that this sovereign preference be for Himself (see Luke 14:26). Initially, when “the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit” (Romans 5:5), it is easy to put Jesus first. But then we must practice the things mentioned in 2 Peter 1 to see them worked out in our lives. The first thing God does is forcibly remove any insincerity, pride, and vanity from my life. And the Holy Spirit reveals to me that God loved me not because I was lovable, but because it was His nature to do so. Now He commands me to show the same love to others by saying, “. . . love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12). He is saying, “I will bring a number of people around you whom you cannot respect, but you must exhibit My love to them, just as I have exhibited it to you.” This kind of love is not a patronizing love for the unlovable— it is His love, and it will not be evidenced in us overnight. Some of us may have tried to force it, but we were soon tired and frustrated.
“The Lord . . . is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish . . .” (2 Peter 3:9). I should look within and remember how wonderfully He has dealt with me. The knowledge that God has loved me beyond all limits will compel me to go into the world to love others in the same way. I may get irritated because I have to live with an unusually difficult person. But just think how disagreeable I have been with God! Am I prepared to be identified so closely with the Lord Jesus that His life and His sweetness will be continually poured out through Me? Neither natural love nor God’s divine love will remain and grow in me unless it is nurtured. Love is spontaneous, but it has to be maintained through discipline.