Summary: What character qualities have to do with my relationship with the people around me?
Today we will conclude our consideration of the particulars of Christian character development. We have noticed that Peter is very specific concerning what character qualities we should seek to develop as a Christian if we are going to progress toward Christ-likeness (vs. 5-7). He seems to list them in a particular order. Faith comes first, followed by goodness, then knowledge, to which we add self-control, then perseverance, then godliness, then brotherly kindness, and finally, love.
The first three character qualities (faith, goodness, and knowledge) have to do with my relationship with the God above me. The second three (self-control, perseverance, and godliness) have to do with my relationship with the world about me. The last two character qualities (brotherly kindness and love) have to with my relationship with the people around me. Today, we will look to the last two character qualities of brotherly kindness and love.
1. Brotherly Kindness - v. 7
The word that Peter uses here is the Greek word "phileo," which is the word used in the name of the church mentioned in the book of Revelation, the church at Philadelphia. "Phileo" is one of the words the Greeks used when speaking of love. In fact, we have a city here in the United States, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which is commonly called, "the city of brotherly love," because "phileo" refers to a love that is based on a family relationship or connection. This is a love that Christians, therefore, should have for one another, since we are all part of the same family, the family of God.
As illustrated by the testimony of our guys who went to Sri Lanka, when you are part of the family of God, you can literally journey half-way around the world and find that you have an instant connection with the believers you find there. Anyone who has traveled on a mission trip or simply on a vacation where you stopped to worship with others on the Lord’s Day can testify to this. It’s a wonderful thing.
But it is a sad fact that often, members of God’s family get along more lovingly with brothers or sisters they do not know personally, than they do with those they do know in their own country, community or even, their own church. As the old poem expresses it . . . "To dwell in love with saints above, oh will, one day, be glory; But to dwell below with saints we know, well that’s a different story!"
Which is why Peter tells us that we need to "make every effort" (v. 5) to add this character quality to our lives as believers. When it comes to forgiveness, to reconciliation, to taking the initiative to reach out and help, to bearing one another’s burdens, to encouraging one another, to serving one another, and to being kind to one another, we can sometimes find it a difficult task. How can we be helped to develop this character quality in our lives, even when it comes to that brother or sister in Christ with whom we might have difficulty?
"Now you can have sincere love for each other as brothers and sisters because you were cleansed from your sins when you accepted the truth of the Good News. So see to it that you really do love each other intensely with all your hearts. For you have been born again. Your new life did not come from your earthly parents because the life they gave you will end in death. But this new life will last forever because it comes from the eternal, living word of God. As the prophet says, ‘People are like grass that dies away; their beauty fades as quickly as the beauty of wildflowers. The grass withers, and the flowers fall away. But the word of the Lord will last forever.’ And that word is the Good News that was preached to you. So get rid of all malicious behavior and deceit. Don’t just pretend to be good! Be done with hypocrisy and jealousy and backstabbing. You must crave pure spiritual milk so that you can grow into the fullness of your salvation. Cry out for this nourishment as a baby cries for milk, now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness."