Get out a pen and paper, or open up a note-taking app. What are the first five adjectives that come to mind if you were trying to answer the question: “What are the five top adjectives that should describe a church family?”
This week we are studying 1 Peter 3:8-12 where Peter teaches how a church family should interact with one another. Yesterday we saw the first of five adjectives that Peter says should define a church: harmonious. A church should be unified. Today we going to look at the remaining four adjectives, and I think you’ll see that they all very much relate to or support the idea of being harmonious.
The second adjective is Sympathetic. Sympathy is when you have common feelings or emotions with someone. Hear the unity in that?
Third is Brotherly Love. This is the Greek word philadelphia again, just like we saw in 1:22, “love for your brothers.” Same word. This is vital for unity. Love is the basis for unity.
Next is Compassionate. The passion part of this word is not about erotic passion. The word Peter is using is about painful passion. We English speakers almost never use the word passion like that, except in one week of the year. You know which week? Holy Week. It is also called Passion Week, and churches do Passion Plays, and what passion are they talking about? Jesus’ passion, his suffering! Jesus’ arrest, beating, crucifixion and death are his passion, his pain, his suffering. And that is what the word compassion is getting at. It means to “suffer with someone.” We normally think of compassion as when we see someone hurting and we go, “Awwww…it will be okay,” or some platitude like that. But true compassion is to enter into the pain with that person. That is a whole deeper level of kindness and relationship that we can see totally spurs on unity!
Finally, Be Humble. That one is huge. Humility, teachability is critical for unity in the church family. I cannot emphasize this enough. In a church family, we must simply be humble. Pride and arrogance will destroy our relationships. When I did my missionary internship between my junior and senior years in college, I spent three months in Guyana, South America. There were probably 15-20 different missionaries working together in the same general area. My host family were really awesome, and they taught me so much about ministry. One thing they taught me was humility. One night the wife was telling me about how they had been having significant relationship problems with one of the missionaries. This other missionary was being extremely difficult about a policy and making false accusations against my host family. They prayed hard about how to respond, because they knew they had not done what they were accused of. You know what my missionary host family told me they decided to do? “It is better to take one for the team and preserve unity, than it is to be right.” Wow. That’s humility.
Those are the five adjectives Peter says should describe a church family: harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly love, compassion and humility. So how many did you get? And more importantly, are there any that you need to work on? Who can you talk with in your church family about improving on that characteristic?
But Peter is not done. He finally gets to some verbs. We’ll start looking at them tomorrow!