Time’s short. Love well.
I thought it last night on the couch, snuggling up with the daughter who’s now almost taller than me. She was prattling on, talking about which junior high she’ll go to and what it will be like when she gets there.
“Well, it’s still a ways off,” I said.
She turned and looked at me. “Not really, Mom.”
She’s right. Years fly fast, and it won’t be long till I can count what’s left of those eighteen summers on one hand. Looking at this girl running hard towards womanhood, my heart beat out the words. Time’s short. Love well.
Sometimes life freezes us in our steps, reminding us of how short time is and how relentlessly its passing. When you sit with a family member who every day seems to take one step closer to glory. When you look across the table and see the flicker of a man’s expression on the boy-child’s face. When the gray hairs in the mirror can’t be denied anymore and you have to admit your aching bones aren’t as young as they once were.
Time’s short. Love well.
That simple reminder is at the heart of Peter’s message in 1 Peter 4:7-11:
The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have recieved to serve others as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen (1 Peter 4:7-11).
The end of all things is near. Do you hear the ticking of the clock? Time’s short. Jesus is coming. To follow Christ is to live with expectation–anticipating the day Christ pulls back the veil of eternity and returns for his own. This world we see and touch will not endure forever. We are made for greater things. Eternal things. And so even as the sand of time pours away from beneath our feet, we plant ourselves on the solid ground of Christ and cling to the three things that are eternal: God. God’s Word. And the souls of men and women.
Peter urges us to keep watch and pray. Satan’s defeat is coming, and the devil will not go quietly. We watch and pray so we will not be tangled up in his schemes and caught unprepared for Christ’s coming. But in these last fleeting moments of human history, the one most important thing Peter charges us to do is to love well.
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. In his commentary on 1 Peter, I. Howard Marshall writes that the Greek expression for this phrase means “to love at full stretch.” This is not a passive kind of love. Loving at full stretch is active, requiring us to stretch our arms till we feel the burn. Love is not always comfortable. It requires work, growth, and vulnerability. It demands that we work through conflicts, live with differences, and find ways to love people who aren’t always like us. Love doesn’t just express concern. It develops true affection and demonstrates it to others.
What does that love look like? Peter shows us in the following verses. Offer hospitality–joyfully, not complaining–and invite others into your homes and lives. Use your gifts to serve others, stewarding God’s grace rather than hoarding it for yourself. If you speak, do so as if speaking the very words of God. If you serve, do it with the strength God supplies so that in all that we say and do God may be praised through Jesus Christ. For all glory and power belong to him, always and forever.
Love looks like something. It looks like friends gathered around a table who still leave enough room to invite others in. It looks like the mother who runs through her days just to keep up, but still manages to make a visit to the widow next door. Or like the Sunday School class that doesn’t bat an eye at the chain-smoking, tattoo covered, leather wearing biker–just pulls up an extra chair and passes him a Bible. It looks like caring enough to work through conflicts instead of booting people out of our lives; like laying down some of our own preferences so others can worship; like spending time serving in the background so someone else can stand in the spotlight and let God shine through.
We love well because time is short. Peter wrote this letter to a persecuted and alienated church. In a hostile world, they needed to create a safe harbor. As they anticipated Christ’s return, they needed to dedicate themselves to loving well, building relationships that would sustain the inevitable frictions of life together. Love covers over a multitude of sins. Love allows us to forgive offenses and continue treating one another with care and concern. Love binds the church together so we don’t fracture apart.
Time is short. Love well. Like the churches to which Peter first wrote, we live in a world that is not always friendly to our faith. We too face a host of both internal and external pressures. And we also anticipate the day of Christ’s coming. Time’s short. We need to love one another well, creating our own safe harbor in a dangerous world. And we need to love at full stretch, reaching to embrace those outside of our faith community so we can invite them in. For Christ is coming, and too many are still unprepared.
Time’s short. Love well.