Text: 1 Peter 3:8-12 | Listen to Message
1 Peter 3:8 lists five qualities that define Christian community in contrast to the self-promoting and vindictive culture of the world: unity, sympathy, brotherly love, compassion, and humility.
Unity is literally “of the same mind.”
The world is characterized by either dogmatic, close-minded, inflexible opinionating on the one hand or groupthink on the other. We love to surround ourselves with people who share our same thoughts, perspectives, and opinions, and we love to argue with those who don’t.
In a culture of conflict, unity is a breath of fresh air. Unity doesn’t mean uniformity. It doesn’t mean 100% agreement. It’s simply a conscious decision to build consensus around the core beliefs that really matter (like the deity and humanity of Jesus Christ) while refusing to be contentious or divisive over opinions that don’t.
Sympathy is literally “to suffer with.”
It’s one thing to tell a friend, “I’m so sorry, I’ll pray for you.” It’s another to enter into their grief or pain and to weep with those who weep.
Brotherly love is the term philadelphoi, meaning “tender affection for a brother.”
Christians often treat other believers as strangers or even enemies. In reality, we’re brothers and sisters because we’ve been adopted the Father’s free grace. As sons and daughters of God, we’re called to love one another with unconditional, sacrificial, familial love.
Compassion is literally “good inner parts.”
That’s a weird one. But back then the innards or intestines were thought to be the seat of emotions, whether good or evil. It makes sense: when we’re filled with anger or hatred, compassion or romance, we often feel moved deep in our being by the emotions we feel.
Here’s the point of this word: When you feel those deep emotions of pity or empathy, good inner parts will lead you to act on those feelings to alleviate the misery of another. That’s the basic idea of compassion.
Humility is literally “lowly in mind.”
Humility is not self-pity (which is really just another form of pride) or thinking less of yourself; it’s thinking of yourself less. To put it another way, humility is simply living in light of the glory of God so that you have an appropriate opinion of yourself.
Before we leave this verse, note something important – and fascinating! There’s a symmetry to these five qualities:
The 1st and 5th qualities deal with the mind – or your thoughts.
The 2nd and 4th qualities deal with the emotions – or your feelings.
And in the center is your heart – or your affections.
In other words, healthy Christian community works from the inside out – and the heart is love. You must see how God has loved and adopted you in Christ. And you must trust that he’s equipping you to love your brothers and sisters.
As Tim Keller has said, “What your heart most wants, you mind finds reasonable, your will finds doable, and your emotions find desirable.”
Do you know why there’s still so much conflict and division amongst professing Christians? Because we love something more than we love Jesus and our brothers and sisters. We love control. We love the praise of men. We love being right. We love our reputation. We love self. So we find it reasonable – even desirable – to destroy our brothers and sisters with criticism and slander when they get between us and the things we most love.
But what if your heart most wants to love other believers for Christ’s sake? Then your mind will find unity and humility reasonable. Your emotions will instinctively pursue sympathy and compassion. And you will act accordingly to welcome and to care for your brothers and sisters – even when they annoy you, offend with you, and sin against you.
What an amazing vision Christ has for his Church – that we would be a contrast community in which grace is always the response to provocation and pain!