“and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:7–8, NASB95)
Living more and more like Christ in godliness means that we also are to relate to one another more and more like Christ as well. Peter wrote that in our godliness we’re to add brotherly kindness or affection. The Greek word here is familiar to many of us. It is “philadelphia.” Even in our own country, we know Philadelphia as the “city of brotherly love.” But Philadelphia in practice seems to be increasingly detached from its name, which has according to neighborhoodscout.com, “found that the violent crime rate is one of the highest in the nation, across communities of all sizes (both large and small). Violent offenses tracked included rape, murder and non-negligent manslaughter, armed robbery, and aggravated assault, including assault with a deadly weapon.” Just talking about brotherly kindness, does not automatically result in brotherly kindness unless brotherly kindness is purposely lived out in the lives of those called to it.
People rub against people and cause friction. Not one of us in perfected in our daily lives. We all do things that can be an irritant to others, and it is for that reason that as brothers and sisters in Christ we are instructed to supply or to add brotherly kindness in our dealings with others. This is true even if a particular brother or sister in Christ may not treat us similarly. Remembering that we are living out the godly example of the Son of God we can look to the example of Christ who even responded rightly to those who wanted to destroy Him. Peter wrote in his first letter, “WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously;” (1 Peter 2:22–23, NASB95) And in 1 Corinthians Paul wrote of himself and those working alongside him, “and we toil, working with our own hands; when we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure;” (1 Corinthians 4:12, NASB95)
Treating others with brotherly kindness is a choice we make not because of how they treat us, but because of how God treated us even when we were His enemies. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8, NASB95) The “philadelphia” brotherly kindness that we show toward others is a direct outflow of the true “agape” love that God has shown to us, and it is the loudest statement that we can make to the watching world that God has made a difference in our lives. “Little children, I am with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” (John 13:33–34, NASB95) Because we love Him, we love others and treat them in godly loving ways with the affection that we have learned.
The Christian life is not lived in a vacuum. It is lived as a part of a body of believers who build into each other and who are placed in a world who desperately needs to believe and be saved. God loved us and sent His Son, and now He sends us with the love of His Son to love one another in word and deed, and to then also proclaim His great love to those outside the body who are in such great need. This love is only lived in community, whether that community is friendly as it should be in the church or hostile as it may be in the world.
Peter continued in the next verse, “For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” It is an amazing thing that nowhere in this passage is there a list of tasks to be accomplished, but rather it is about how our lives are lived. Living as God calls us to live pleases Him, and surely as we do so we will then be used by Him to accomplish the many and varied tasks that come along the way. None of us will do things the same way. Not one of us is a cookie cutter of the other. But all who are saved are brought together into one body of which Christ is the head. We are to continually look to Him and love as He first loved us. Doing this we will surely produce the fruit that He intends.