Peter praises his audience toward the beginning of his first letter,
Though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls (1 Peter 1:8-9).
Isn’t it pretty much impossible to fall in love with someone you’ve never met? Well, if we are thinking of couples, then probably so.
But Peter points out a difference between himself and his audience, who are the Christians of distant provinces like Asia, Galatia, Bithynia (1:1). Peter had the privilege of spending three years living and working with Jesus. Peter had heard Jesus’ words with his own ears, seen Jesus’ miracles with His own eyes, touched Jesus’ wounds with his own hands.
The Christians of Asia had not. They came to faith in Jesus through the testimony of Peter and the other apostles. Peter praised them for demonstrating the same quality of faith without Peter’s advantage of immediacy.
Falling in Love with the Unseen
That’s important, because every believer from the apostles onward will have to come to love and trust Jesus Christ in the absence of His actual person. This is not a weakness in the plan of salvation; in fact, this is exactly God’s design. Jesus spoke of our faith when He said to Thomas,
Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed (John 20:29).
Peter spoke of our faith when he said to Cornelius,
We are witnesses of the things [Jesus] did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They also put Him to death by hanging Him on a cross. God raised Him up on the third day and granted that He become visible, not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen beforehand by God, that is, to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. And He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead. Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins (Acts 10:39-43).
Our loyalty to Jesus comes not by sight, but by faith. We discover who Jesus is, and what He has done for us, and what hope He offers us, and on the basis of those things determine to serve Him. We love Him for His power, His character, His promises, His provision. The portrait of Jesus painted by His apostles is an attractive one indeed! Our ability to love and serve Him is not at all diminished by distance.
Besides, while Peter says that we have not seen Him, we most certainly have met Jesus. We have beheld Him in our mind’s eye as He hung upon the cross for our sake. We have encountered Him in the waters of baptism, when he washed us in His blood. We have felt the change wrought in our innermost beings when He provided us eternal life, which caused us to respond in our priorities and decisions. Our love for Jesus is not an infatuation, but a deep commitment built on the reality of truth and sacrifice.
A Long-Distance Relationship
Still, there’s another part to Peter’s point that is important to appreciate. Maintaining a relationship with someone that we don’t see face-to-face takes some effort. If we are to love Jesus, believe Jesus, and rejoice in our relationship with Jesus, we must work at it.
Speak to Him often. People in love can have long conversations on the phone. We ought to be able to have frequent, in-depth conversations with Jesus.
Enter His presence often. Jesus is with us wherever two or more are gathered in His name. Make worship a priority. Encounter Him in the books of the gospels.
Think of the goal at the end—full fellowship with our Lord and Master in heaven. Before we get too jealous of the intimacy that Peter enjoyed, let’s remember that he who ate with the Master also denied Him three times. Clearly, seeing Jesus face-to-face is no guarantee of faith; while a faith gained through the knowledge of the word is more than sufficient to inspire us and motivate us until the end. —John Guzzetta