Since Monday we have been thinking about what Peter says about God’s will for his people. On Monday, we thought about the contrast he requires with regard to how non-Christians live. Yesterday, we considered what he says about prayer. Today we focus on a third aspect, which is earnest brotherly love, and Peter mentions three features of it.
I would suggest that he does not mean that we should become earnest and then practice the three features. Instead, we are seen to be earnest when we practice them. The way to become earnest in brotherly love is to practice these three features, which will bring about a balanced way of life.
The first evidence of earnest brotherly love is how we respond to the sins of our brothers. Unless a sin by a brother is serious, it should never be the subject of conversation between two other Christians unless they both have seen it. Sins and faults in a congregation should not be broadcast to Christians in other congregations. The greatness of my brotherly love is seen in the extent of my silence regarding the faults I see in other believers. Certainly we should speak to him or her about the flaw, and usually that will be sufficient.
The second evidence of earnest brotherly love is hospitality. Obviously we can see why hospitality was expected in times of persecution. Yet it was a call to other Christians to do something potentially dangerous because they could end up in trouble with the authorities for helping the persecuted. But hospitality is not limited to times of persecution. What is required for hospitality? It could be put this way — denial and delight. There will be denial of ourselves in that we wish to share what we have; there will be delight in all the brothers and sisters in the congregation. It is amazing the contribution hospitality gives in providing earnest brotherly love.
The third evidence of earnest brotherly love is our use of our gifts (vv. 10-11). Peter says several things about spiritual gifts.
- He reminds his readers that each of them as received at least one gift from God. These gifts are usually given at conversion when we first receive God’s grace.
- He says that each gift has been given for the benefit of the others in the congregation.
- The wide range of gifts can be summarised in two categories — speech and service. Those who can speak includes more than preaching; there can be exhorters and encouragers, it can be done in groups or one-to-one, it includes evangelism and witnessing, but all such activities convey the message of God’s Word. Those who serve are not to do it in their own strength but in the power of the Spirit.
- Such use of spiritual gifts will result in praise to God because their effects will be seen in the lives of others. The possibility of God being glorified should be the supreme reason for doing anything within the church.
As Peter thinks about his readers living that quality of life, he breaks out into a doxology. This doxology is not merely a statement that focuses on another world; it is also a reminder to his suffering readers that they can bring glory to their Saviour by imitating him by having a desire to obey the revealed will of God regarding holy living, effective prayer and earnest brotherly love.