Summary: The early church faced great adversity, but also enjoyed a tremendous opportunity to share the Gospel. We too must seek out opportunities to be an effective witness, putting our faith on display.
Putting our Faith on Display
1 Peter 3: 8-11
As we continue our series in 1 Peter, we need to be reminded of the volatile environment in which the believers existed. Sever persecution had forced many of them from their homes in and around Jerusalem. They were scattered throughout various regions beyond Israel, largely to the north and northwest. They held on to their faith, but they faced many new and difficult obstacles. They were forced to adapt to a new culture and co-exist with those foreign to the faith. Peter sought to equip them to be effective in living out their faith in a new place of residence.
It is interesting that we find the word finally in the middle of Peter’s first epistle. While he had begun to wrap up his thoughts, he still had much to share. This transition reveals that he will share a common theme throughout the remainder of this letter. His focus from this point forward will be Christian conduct in the midst of a world that doesn’t embrace the faith.
While we are much removed in location and time from those whom Peter originally wrote, the principles he shared are timeless for the believer. The life expected of believers within the early church continues to be expected of the modern church today. We need to apply and model the same characteristics within our culture. I want to examine the characteristics Peter described as we consider the challenge of: Putting our Faith on Display.
I. The Believer’s Conduct (8-9a) – Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous:  Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing. Peter revealed several characteristics that must be displayed openly if the believer was to be an effective witness for Christ. These characteristics should be displayed through our daily conduct as well. Peter admonished them to display:
A. Unity – Finally, be ye all of one mind. There were already enough distractions brought about through the struggles of daily living without the church creating more among themselves. Peter knew the church desperately needed unity in order to survive and portray an effective witness. They had to be all of one mind in every facet of life – in doctrine, deed, and desire.
Local congregations and smaller sub-groups within the church can overcome many obstacles, but unity is essential in every situation. The church can survive any difficulty she faces when the body is united in doctrine and purpose, but she will face great difficulty apart from unity. We could never expect others to desire to be part of this local fellowship if we lacked unity.
B. Compassion – having compassion one of another. Along with unity comes the need for compassion within the body of Christ. This speaks of “sympathy, to feel with others, sharing in their difficulties.” The believers needed to share in the struggles of others, bearing one another’s burdens. When one rejoiced, they all needed to rejoice. When one wept, they needed to weep with them. When there was a need, they must be willing to share the need, no matter how great or small.
In reality, these two go hand in hand. It is impossible to possess unity within the body and yet fail to show compassion toward the needs of others. A healthy congregation, portraying an effective witness, will always display compassion toward the needs of others. Jesus modeled this for us as He lived and ministered upon the earth. We find that He was moved with compassion toward the needs of others. Healthy congregations must display compassion!
C. Love – love as brethren. This should go without saying, and yet Peter sensed the need to remind them of the need to display love for one another as well. They were to love one another with a brotherly love. This was not just superficial or in word only, but a genuine love for those within the body of Christ.
These characteristics are foundational to the Christian faith. They set us apart from the other religions and philosophies of the world. If we are united in purpose, having compassion for others, love will be a natural by-product. There is a great need for love to be shown within the church today. No doubt we all love each other, but sometimes we fail to show or express our love.
Love binds us together, forming an inseparable union. Love overlooks the failures of others and seeks the best in every situation. Love compels us to action on behalf of the good of the church, defeating our selfish tendencies that often get in the way. Love is present here, and we must ensure that it remains!
D. Pity – be pitiful. This goes hand in hand with compassion. While they are similar, they reveal separate actions. It means “to be tenderhearted; to be sensitive and affectionate toward the needs of others; to be moved with tender feelings over the pain and sufferings of others.” (i) Peter knew pity toward the needs of others would edify the church and promote the Gospel.