Glorifying God through Our Love
Topic: English Passage: 1 Peter 3:8
It’s been 4 months since we paused our study in First Peter, but now we are back. So, please turn with me to First Peter chapter 3, verses 8 and 9.
This is a call for unity and love in the church. Verse 8 describes some positive qualities—what we should be pursuing—and verse 9 describes some things we should not be doing. I’m going to read both verses, but for today, we are only going to be discussing the positive qualities of verse 8. Let’s read it. First Peter, chapter 3, verses 8 and 9.
Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.
In verse 8, the Apostle Peter gives us five positive characteristics to pursue, so it’s important to understand what they mean. But before we do that, and especially since we are just coming back to this study, I think it would be helpful for us to have a quick review of First Peter.
This is not just so that we understand the book as a whole, but so that we understand the context of this verse. Why is Peter calling us to these qualities? What’s the big picture here?
First Peter was written to a group of Christians who were suffering some form of persecution. It hadn’t yet reached the level of official persecution by the government, but there was clear persecution and hostility from the culture.
So, in response to that, Peter wants to remind the church about two things, and these are two of the major themes in the book. Number 1, he reminds them about their future hope. They have a glorious inheritance awaiting them. This is not their true home. Rather than respond with despair, Christ’s people should be marked by hope, and so, this book opens by praising God for the salvation He has given us in Jesus Christ.
The second major theme is our present holiness. Maybe that sounds familiar to you. Before we took our break, I kept repeating to you those words: hope and holiness. That’s what 1 Peter is about. That’s what a suffering church needs to focus on. Rather than complain, rather lash out, we are called to walk in holiness. That holiness not only honors God, but it the instrument God uses to draw even more people to Himself.
Turn with me to 1 Peter 1:13. I just want you to see one of the transitions in the book that highlights these themes. First Peter 1:13-16 says this:
Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
Our hope is what fuels our holiness. If we didn’t have a future hope, there wouldn’t be a need or an impetus for a present holiness. One of the primary ways this world sees the difference Christ makes in us is through our love.
John 13:35 says: By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
So, if you skip down to First Peter 1:22, you see that that’s what Peter turns his attention to. First Peter 1:22—Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart.
Living a holy life of love demonstrates that we belong to Christ, and it’s what God uses to draw people to Himself. Skip over to 1 Peter 2:12. Hopefully, if you were with us some time back, this verse sounds familiar. First Peter 2:12—Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
“Good deeds” isn’t primarily talking about things like cleaning up the beach or feeding the homeless, though those can be good things. “Good deeds” is a broad term that includes our present holiness motived by our future hope.
As an example of those good deeds, Peter goes on to describe submission. He talks about the way we should submit to the civil authorities. He talks about how slaves should submit to their earthly masters, even if they’re being harsh or unjust. Those things are easy to say, but hard to so. They are an expression of our faith. They put the heart and the love of Jesus on display.
Then, starting in chapter 3, Peter describes how that’s shown in the household. It’s shown through a wife that submits in gentleness and in respectful behavior. That’s what true beauty looks like.
For the husband, honoring Christ means being compassionate with your wife, seeking to understand her, and treating her with honor as an equal before the Lord.
And that’s what brings us now to chapter 3 verse 8. I say all this, not just as a review, but to help you see what’s behind this command. Peter isn’t just saying, “Be a loving church.” That’s only part of the message. He’s saying, “Be a loving church. Be a united church that worships Jesus, puts Him on display, and is used by God.” A loving church is a united church. A loving church is an effective church.
So, if that’s what you want—and if you love Christ, it should be—what are some characteristics that we need. First Peter 3:8 gives us five, and they’re not being specified into particular relationships. These should all be applied to every area of your life. So, as I go through them, you need to do the work of thinking about what they might look like in your own life.
Think about your marriage. Think about your kids. Think about your job. And think about your relationships with others in the church. Think about every kind of relationship you have with someone else and ask God to help you find ways you can grow in order to worship Him and put the truth of Jesus on display.
Just so you know, in the original Greek, all five of these characteristics are one word. But they’re so rich, that we can’t always translate them with one word in English. How do we show the world the love we have in Jesus Christ?
Number 1, we need harmony. ESV says “unity of mind” but “harmony” is a good way to reduce is to one word. Your Bible probably uses either one of those translations. We need harmony.
An overly literal translation would be “unity of heart” but for the culture of that time, the heart was where thoughts and plans originated. Today, we say that thoughts originate in the mind.
Peter is saying, “You guys need to be united in your thinking. Be of the same mind.” That doesn’t mean we’re all robots that think exactly the same way. It means we need to have the same goal in mind. That’s unity.
What is harmony in music? It doesn’t mean we’re all playing the same instrument or even playing the same notes, right? Harmony is different notes, or different sounds, being played at the same time to produce an effect. In music, we call that a chord. If you play the wrong notes, it sounds bad. If you pick the right notes, it sounds beautiful. You’re playing a chord.
Why does our music team come early to practice? They come early because they want to make sure they’re all on the same page, doing the right thing at the right time. They need to make sure they are united. They want to have harmony.
And you see the same principle in a professional sports team. They’re not just working individually trying to get better. They learn to work together for a common goal.
Well, as a church of the Lord Jesus Christ, what is our goal? Philippians 1:27 gives us the answer. Paul says he wants the church standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.
That’s our goal. We are here to help advance the gospel. We want more people to know it, and we want people to know it more. We want people to come to know Christ, and if they already know Him, we want them to know Him more and walk with Him more closely. That’s why we open God’s word every Sunday, to hear God speak to us—to encourage us and to convict us where it’s necessary.
When you’ve got the right focus in life, a lot of petty arguments go away. When soldiers are in a battle, they’re not arguing over what’s for dinner, right? That common purpose unites them and minimizes unnecessary arguments. They find a way to work together.
One biblical example of this comes in Philippians 4 with two women known as Euodia and Syntyche. We don’t know what happened, but apparently, there was some kind of argument between them, and it was so noteworthy that Paul called them out in the letter.
Here’s what he said—I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.
Paul describes these women as those who have labored side by side with him in the gospel. In other words, “Same team, ladies. Same team.”
You need to be able to do the same thing in the church and in your marriage. When there’s some kind of disagreement, or even some kind of argument, step back and remind yourself about the big picture. What are we here for? What are we trying to accomplish? That’s how you find unity. That’s how you get harmony. That’s how you showcase the love of Jesus.
After harmony, the second characteristic on this list is sympathy. Sympathy.
The idea here is that you feel what others feel. You feel their pain and their joys.
In 1 Corinthians 12:26, Paul says that the body of Christ should suffer with one part that suffers, and we should rejoice when one part is honored. Romans 12 says to rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
How does that happen? It doesn’t happen magically; it comes from sitting down with someone and listening. It comes from asking good questions and trying to understand them.
When we are looking at an issue, and especially an area where there’s a disagreement, we don’t just want to talk about the end result, we want to talk about the motivations and the desires in our hearts. My main goal shouldn’t be to convince people that my viewpoint is superior. I need to step back and learn to see the other person’s perspective. That’s sympathy.
Going back one verse, you see this idea in verse 7 when Peter addresses the husbands. He said we need to live with our wives “in an understanding way.” That means we need to do the work to try to understand what it’s like to be in her shoes. Think about what she’s feeling and thinking. Put yourself in her situation. Feel what she feels.
That’s needed advice for men who want to love their wives the way Christ loves and cherishes the church. It’s also wonderful advice for how to love one another. Put yourself in the shoes of the other person. Ask questions before giving answers. Try to feel what they’re feeling.
That’s not easy, but that’s God’s call. When you’re trying to make a big decision, this isn’t going to feel efficient. You might even think it’s a waste of time, but that’s what honors Christ and demonstrates His love.
Jesus is our sympathetic High Priest. He knows what we’re going through. He knows our motivations and our priorities. And He feels what we’re going through because He lived on this planet too. That’s the heart we want to have with one another.
My default position is, “I’m right, and unless you agree with me, you’re wrong. You don’t understand.” That’s what causes a lot of the tensions between husbands and wives, and parents and children, and old people and young people, and English-speakers and Spanish-speakers, and mask-wearers and non-mask wearers.
We all have a bias toward ourselves. We start with the assumption that we are right. “If I had a dog or a plant, I wouldn’t care if it died, so why are you making such a big deal about this! If I was in your situation, I wouldn’t buy that kind of car! I wouldn’t discipline my kids that way.” The list goes on forever.
Showing sympathy means trying to step outside your own life and trying to see and feel things the way the other person sees and feels them. It’s a powerful way to show the love of Jesus.
Let’s move on now to the third characteristic. We had harmony. We had sympathy. And number three is affection. That’s the word I’m going to use—affection.
Here, Peter is using an adjective, but the Greek noun is philadelphia, which is a reference to brotherly love. This is familial love; it’s the love of a close friend. If there was something you could do to encourage or to help a brother or a close friend, chances are you’d want to do it. That relationship produces a kind of affection and a kind of devotion. My connection to my brother and my sister is evident in my choices.
Well, in Jesus Christ, we are brothers and sisters. We’re part of the same family, and that relationship should produce some kind of devotion.
First Thessalonians 4:9 says we have been taught by God to love one another. God, as our heavenly father, wants us to love one another.
Turn with me for a second to Ephesians chapter 4. I want to show you something. I want you to see the distinct priority God gives to our relationships with one another. Look at Ephesians 4, verse 30. Ephesians 4:30.
It says—And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
That’s a very interesting verse. The Holy Spirit that gave us new life and dwells within us can be grieved. There is something that makes Him sad or sorrowful. What is that? Look at the next verse. Verse 31.
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.
Those are sins that specifically damage our relationships with one another. They are the opposite of brotherly love. That’s what grieves the Spirit. The Spirit unites us. He indwells me and you. He wants to see us working together in harmony using the gifts He gave us, not attacking one another.
Brotherly love is shown through our hospitality, through our compassion. It’s seen in the affection we have for one another.
Do you remember when Moses saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, and then he killed him? What happened on the next day? He saw two Hebrews fighting and he said to them, “Why are you fighting with your companion, your friend?
How sad to think that the Spirit of God would ask us the same thing? “Why are you fighting with one of your own?” God wants a brotherly affection for one another. That’s what’s behind Paul’s words: Greet one another with a holy kiss. It was a way of expressing our affection for one another as the household of God, united by Jesus Christ.
Let’s move on now to number four on the list. I’m going to call this tenderness. If we want to put Christ’s love on display in this world, we need tenderness.
ESV says “a tender heart.” Other translations say “kindhearted” or “compassionate.” If you translated the Greek word literally, it would be “good guts” or “good bowels,” which may not make a whole lot of sense to us.
For the Greeks, your bowels were the source of your emotions. Today we generally use the heart to talk about emotion, but we also talk about having “a gut feeling.” Maybe you’ve also heard the word “visceral.” Have you ever heard that word?
“Visceral” means you feel it in your gut. People will sometimes talk about a visceral reaction to something. That means you feel it. It’s a physical reaction to some kind of emotions. It’s guttural. And it typically leads you to some sort of response.
Other translations use the word compassionate or affectionate, and the point is not just about your feelings. It’s about feelings that lead you to action.
We are called to feel what the other person is feeling. That’s not always easy. I might cry in a movie when someone dies and the dramatic music plays, but why is it so much less natural to cry when someone else suffers in real life? Do you ever have that experience?
Think about how backwards that is. We grieve at fiction. We empathize with something on a screen, but not with the real people in front of us. We give our emotions over to some writer and director, but we won’t give them to the people that matter. Why is that? Think about that? Maybe if we spent less time focused on the pretend lives of others, we could invest more in the real lives of our brothers and sisters.
Now, even if we can’t fully feel what someone else is experiencing, that doesn’t mean we can’t help, right? Even if our emotions are less than ideal, we can still respond with compassion. We can help.
We can show compassion by granting forgiveness, by praying for others, and by meeting a need. According to the Apostle John said, don’t close your heart to a brother in need. Be a person of compassion. Meet their need. Help them in a tangible way, by your words and by your deeds.
There’s one final positive attribute, and this one undergirds the rest. First Peter 3:8, what’s the final characteristic there? It says a humble mind. So, let’s just call this humility. If we want to honor Christ and showcase His love, we need humility. We need humility.
Another word we could use here is “lowliness” or “modesty.”
Being humble doesn’t mean making less of yourself. It means recognizing how lowly you already are before God. False humility is making less of yourself in order to gain attention. That doesn’t honor God. True humility isn’t about your relationship with others; it’s about your relationship to God.
And like with every other characteristic, the perfect example is Jesus Christ. Philippians 2 remind us that Jesus is God in human flesh. He is eternally majestic and glorious. But, in order to fulfill the Father’s plan, He laid down His visible glory. The King of kings became a slave. He humbled Himself to the point of death on a cross.
That’s the foolishness of the Christian message. God became a man, and He died like a criminal. Why? To pay the price of our sin and to set an example for us.
On Thursday night, Jesus humbled Himself by washing the disciples feet. That was supposed to be the slave’s job. On Friday, he was washing away their sins as the sacrificial Lamb of God.
And what happened next on God’s timetable? God received that sacrifices and raised Him from the dead and exalted Him at His right hand. After humility came glory.
That’s the pattern we follow. We humble ourselves before the Lord, we give ourselves to serve others, and God is glorified. He will bless us with the knowledge that He has receive our act of worship, and He will bless us with spiritual fruit.
In the case of the humble wife, Peter said, he can be won without a word. In the case of the husband, Peter said God hears and accepts his prayers. Because of our good deeds, people will glorify God on the day of visitation.
So, we need to walk in humility. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.
I can’t know the specific ways God would have you put this into practice today and this week, but I know that’s what He wants. So, ask God to open your eyes to His glory, and ask Him to show you how you can apply these truths, particularly with the fellow members in your church.
I’m going to read it one more time, and then we’ll close in prayer. First Peter 3:8—Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.