Who are we?

In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Brotherly love (1 Peter 2:11)

The first detail to notice is the brotherly love that Peter writes about in this verse. This expression is remarkable because many of the ones to whom he was writing were Gentiles – and Peter was a Jew. The point of this distinction is not merely that of different racial identities; in addition, Peter at one time had a spiritual dimension to the racial distinction because he had regarded Gentiles as separated from God. Yet here he is using this most endearing word to describe his affections for his readers. What had caused this dramatic change?

The simple answer to the question is that Jesus Christ had changed him. Over thirty years previously, near the River Jordan, Peter had first met Jesus Christ. Since then Peter had been discovering the capabilities and riches of his Saviour. The Lord Jesus had forgiven Peter all his sins because of what happened at the cross. At that first meeting Peter had no idea of the changed life he would experience. From then on, he lived a supernatural life, one that flowed out of his renewed heart. Of course, he had his failures, but he was a new man possessing the fruit of the Spirit. One aspect of that fruit is brotherly love.

Peter refers to brotherly love several times in this letter (1:22; 2:17; 4:8; 5:9). It was obviously a priority with him and he wanted it to remain a priority for his readers. Given the stress that he puts on brotherly love in connection to witness, it is obvious that Peter was fully aware of the exhortation of Jesus in John 13:35: ‘By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’ So how does Peter show brotherly love?

One way in which Peter does this is by using common terminology but giving it a new meaning. He calls them sojourners and exiles. Normally to be given such a description would be a depressing reminder of what a person had lost. But with Peter these words do not stress what they have lost. Instead they highlight a very bright future. A sojourner is a person always on the move, but what matters is the direction in which he is going. Peter’s readers were on the move and getting closer to heaven each day. An exile is a person who has a homeland, so also in this description Peter is reminding his readers of heaven.

The best brotherly action that we can do is remind our fellow family members about heaven. After all, it is the place to which we are going, it is the place where our Father is, where our Elder Brother is, where all the family will one day be, and where our riches are. We are not orphans as we live day by day; instead we are heirs currently in exile but travelling to our homeland.

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