Relationships in the Church and Those Not in The Church

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8 Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. 9 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. 10 For
“Whoever desires to love life
and see good days,
let him keep his tongue from evil
and his lips from speaking deceit;
11          let him turn away from evil and do good;
let him seek peace and pursue it.
12          For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
and his ears are open to their prayer.
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
For those who have studied God’s Word and studied the doctrine of the church, there is an understanding about how important the church is to the believer. God instituted the church (Matt. 16:18), and the church will not be defeated. The church is not to be neglected by Christians (Heb. 10:24-25) and should be one of the highest priorities in the life of the believer.
In this letter, Peter writes to a group of scattered believers. They are scattered because of the persecution they face, but Peter writes to them encouraging them and reminding them about the God they serve. There are five adjectives here in this text describing God’s design for relationships between believers:
  1. Unity of mind
  2. Sympathy
  3. Brotherly love
  4. Tender heart
  5. Humble mind
These adjectives would describe Christians in the church, or at least it should. When we look at all five words together, we see that obeying these exhortations would lead to smooth relationships within the church (and with outsiders in most cases).[1] Christians can do this as they come from different walks of life and backgrounds, because they all share in Christ.
Verse eight seems to direct the attention to believers while verse nine directs their attention to unbelievers. Believers are exhorted to treat those who harm them differently than their flesh would like to. They are not to repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling. This seems hard to comprehend because our flesh’s instinct is to fight back. Our example is in the person of Jesus who was perfect in every way did not respond to evil with evil. You even find this in the teachings from Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:38-42).
Peter exhorts them to bless. By blessing, Peter means that believers ask God to show grace and favor to those who do harm to them. This again is following Jesus’ example as He prays for those who had crucified Him, for they did not know what they were doing. Peter’s call for them to do this is not so they can earn salvation, but it is evidence of those who are truly redeemed.
Peter cited Psalm 34:12-16 in the next couple verses. This Psalm spoke about God’s deliverance of His people when evil was all around them. God’s children still look to Him for deliverance and are reminded that the Lord is against those who do evil. Those who have truly been saved by the blood of Jesus will live transformed lives that will affect their relationships with both believers and unbelievers.

The Church Should Be Considered A Family

When the church is viewed like a modern-day business, it is viewed impersonal and transactional. The mindset is different than when you are with your family. You live with harmony, there is sympathy toward them, a tender heart, and humility. Your relationships with others in the church will improve when we live out these adjectives in our family of believers. Living these out shows the evidence of a transformed heart.

The Church Should Be A Priority In Your Life

The believers in Peter’s day were scattered because of persecution. Their community was vital for sustaining their faith when they had threats on their life and violence. The Church was a priority in their life, on the contrary, the modern church in America views it more as a club that if you have time for you are involved. As this world continues to grow eviler, Christians stand as bearers of truth ready to proclaim the gospel that people may come to know Jesus.
Is the church a priority to you? Do you value your relationships with other brothers and sisters in Christ?
[1] Thomas R. Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude, vol. 37, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003), 163.