Garry continued his series on 2 Peter 1:3-8 this morning, looking at ‘mutual affection’ or ‘brotherly kindness’. There is a tendency to pass over this when reading the list because we think ‘love’ (agape) is more important, but this kind of love (philadelphia, love of brothers) is vital to Christian development.
The church is a called-out body, but one of the main ways it is described in the New Testament is as a family. When we become Christians, we not only become a child of God, we are born into a family. We have no choice in our natural family members and no choice in our spiritual family members; we are to develop love and affection for people we might otherwise not choose to be with!
Sometimes we view family suspiciously, shaped by negative life experiences, but our attitudes need to be shaped by the Word, rather than by our own experiences. In Western society, the idea of family has often been reduced to the nuclear family and we have become very independent and isolated. The Christian idea of family is one of interdependence rather than independence. We need to join with others in Christ and be joined to them through the love of God.
1 Cor 10:23-24 reminds us that we should seek to serve other people, not pleasing ourselves but considering others’ needs. The purpose of spiritual gifts is for the common good (1 Corinthians 12) and we are taught to encourage one another and build each other up (1 Thess 5:11). Encouragement is doing the work of the Holy Spirit (the encourager, the Parakletos) and we are called be ‘housebuilders’, constructing and confirming others and edifying and emboldening them. Sometimes we need to ‘push’ people in the right direction; at other times, they will need gentle encouragements. We are, after all, our brother’s keeper (or protector, guardian and shield.) We need to be prepared to receive encouragement as well as to give it, for we all need the opportunity to respond to God’s promptings to serve.
Hebrews 10:24-25 tells us we should make every effort to spur each other on to love and good deeds. We are to ‘provoke’ or to ‘incite’ others to do good! There is ample Biblical evidence that this involve great effort and requires determination and diligence (see Rom 14:19-21, Eph 4:1-6). If we are to defeat the disappointment and discouragement which are so prevalent, we need to persevere in coming alongside our brothers and sisters and finding creative ways to bear with each other and keep the unity of the Spirit. There will be friction at times as we are all different people, but a study of bearings has shown that too much smoothness and using similar materials actually doesn’t help bearings to work well together! God knows that we are all different and will often ‘rub each other up’, but this is actually necessary for our mutual growth.
We should value the family of God: 1 John 3:16 reminds us we should lay down our lives for each other, which is often harder to do on a daily basis than as a one-off sacrifice! We have to be prepared to receive help as well as to give it. Love is the yardstick by which we will be measured: John 13:33-35 reminds us that Jesus gave us a new commandment to love each other as He loved us and that this is the way others will see that we are His disciples. Brotherly kindness and mutual affection are, therefore, a powerful witness to the world and a growing testimony to God’s grace and power in our lives.