“Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart,”- 1 Peter 1:22
“This mortification, then, will take place in us only if we fulfill the duties of love. Now he who merely performs all the duties of love does not fulfill them, even though he overlooks none; but he, rather, fulfills them who does this from a sincere feeling of love. For it can happen that one who indeed discharges to the full all his obligations as far as outward duties are concerned is all the while far away from the true way of discharging them… First, they must put themselves in the place of him whom they see in need of their assistance, and pity his ill fortune as if they themselves experienced and bore it, so that they may be impelled by a feeling of mercy and humanness to go to his aid just as to their own” (3.7.7).
Biblical love involves outward action and inward sense. It is not the case that biblical love is all action and no feeling. Conversely, biblical love is not all feeling and no action. Rather, if we are fulfilling “the duties of love” then a “sincere feeling of love” is mobilizing us to perform “outward duties.” An external act of love may not be motivated by an internal sense of love. In other words, the appearance of love could be present but not the reality. Calvin gives a description of genuine love then he explains how to develop it.
Calvin seeks to counsel not condemn. He wants to show us how to cultivate inwardly sensed and externally expressed love. Calvin assumes that we desire to love truly-yet fall short daily- therefore he explains how to generate “a sincere feeling of love” and thereby fulfill the duties of love. Placing ourselves in the shoes of others so as to experience and identify with their suffering will aid in stirring up genuine internal love. Prayerful contemplation and identification with the condition of those who need our love must precede action or occur simultaneously.
Who needs your aid? Will you enter into the suffering of that person through the means of empathetic prayer today? (Justin)