In this series of posts we have been exploring Peter’s guidance concerning how we can be useful and fruitful in our Christian lives. So far he has commanded that we build on our faith by developing virtue, knowledge, self-control, and steadfastness. Today we will look at the final two qualities that will keep us from being useless and unfruitful in our faith: brotherly affection and love.
Reverence for God travels hand in hand with love for fellow believers. the apostle John wrote, “If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” (1 Jn 4:20) Similarly, the writer of Hebrews says, “For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do.”(6:10) So, as far as the apostles were concerned, love for a brother was the outworking of love for God and something that was to be pursued.
Hebrew 6:10 also shows that the outworking of love for God was seen in serving the saints. This is the sort of practical love that Peter writes of in 2 Peter 5:7. The word he used was the Greek philadelphian. Outside the Bible this word was used to describe love among siblings. Peter took over this word and used it to describe the quality of love his readers were to make every effort to attain. Philadelphian was not limited to warm feelings of affection, although it includes that, but rather encompasses affectionate service extended toward men and women who share your confession of faith.
So, to supplement our faith with the brotherly affection Peter had in mind is to perform acts of service for those believers who are in need. Let me suggest that we start by helping those who we personally know. At this time of year you may find your email inbox and your postal mail box stuffed with appeals for help. Certainly, among these appeals are ones deserving your attention. But let me suggest that what Peter has in mind here is helping people in your local church. Look for someone who you can help in some practical and impactful way. Don’t talk yourself out of extending a helping hand, the gift of time, or even financial help by thinking that your effort is insignificant. Why not trust God to multiply your brotherly affection into a blessing for a brother or sister who is in need? Remember the words of Paul in Galatians 6:10, “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (Ga 6:10)
The final virtue Peter urged his readers to cultivate was love. What began in faith (2 Peter 1:5) finds its ultimate outworking in love. Just as God displays His love for sinners in the cross of Jesus (John 3:16, Romans 5:8, 1 John 4:9-11), so our love for others is to seek their highest good. This kind of love is an act of the will. It is extended to both believers and unbelievers. However, because it appears right after brotherly affection, it seems to me that love extended to unbelievers is what is primarily in view. What greater good might we do than living out and sharing the gospel of God’s salvation of sinners through Christ? The goal of these virtues after all is to make us useful and fruitful in our knowledge of the Lord (2 Peter 1:8).
So, let’s find someone with whom we can share the gospel. I know that this can be intimidating. But let me encourage you by saying that according to people who study this sort of thing the problem is not people rejecting the gospel. The problem is that they are never told. Let me tell you of my personal experience. I spent one afternoon sharing the gospel during a holiday in my home town of Estes Park. I approached 75 people (yes I counted!). Out of those seventy-four were willing to talk at least briefly. None were belligerent or rude to me. The one person who was rude did not argue with me over the gospel but upbraided me for my boldness in approaching a stranger. So don’t be afraid. You might be surprised at how receptive people are.