In his first letter, chapter 3, Peter calls all of us to operate five virtues that pack a powerful punch and bring great blessing, not just to those in the church but also to those outside, even to our enemies. Think of these as the five fingers of your hand with the power of grace radiating from the center. It is by the grace of God, freely given to us in Christ, that we can live this way, as Christ has demonstrated in his own life. Let’s look at these.
First, we are to have unity of mind. It is another way of saying that we are to walk together as those who agree, to live in harmony with one another. I remember my early mentor Pastor Thompson who grew up in Oklahoma giving me advice 35 years ago. He said if there are people in the church who just don’t agree with the church, not because it’s unbiblical but because they are not agreeable people, it’s like someone sitting on the back of a wagon that the horse is pulling down the road and letting their feet drag on the ground. It won’t stop the wagon from moving forward but it makes a difference in how efficiently the wagon moves. Peter will cover this point in more depth in chapter 4, but this call to unity in the church was clear apostolic teaching that came from Christ.
Second, we are to have sympathy for one another. Like Jesus does for us, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses.” The word simply means to “feel together.”
Third, we are to have brotherly love. We walk in that to the same degree that we remember and we celebrate the fact that we are family! Again, Hebrews helps us with this: “…he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers.” Remember when Jesus was interrupted by someone in the crowd as he was teaching in a house in Capernaum? That person said, “Hey, Jesus, your mother and your brothers are outside, looking for you.” He said, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” Then he looked at the people sitting in front of him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”
Fourth, we are to have a tender heart toward one another. This is a word that speaks of the inner organs because it means compassion, mercy, deep concern for others. Jesus again is our model for us in this. Jesus illustrates this as well: “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for they, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” His compassion for the spiritually poor, the sick, the weak and the infirmed was extraordinary. Paul wrote, “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, (same word) forgiving one another, as Christ forgave you.” Our compassion for others looks a lot like not holding onto a hurt, but forgiving the one who hurt us, just as Christ has forgiven us.
Fifth, we are to have a humble mind. A tender heart and a humble mind is a powerful one-two punch! And if the first point, unity of mind, is to be likeminded, this fifth virtue is to be lowly-minded. Again our example is Jesus, as Paul wrote in that beautiful passage in Philippians: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” When I asked our home group, “Which character in the Bible do you like or do you most identify with,” half of the people said Peter. Because he, like many of us, had to learn humility the hard way. But oh what a transformation when Peter completely surrendered his life to Jesus and lived for him.
Lord, we need this radical love for one another!