Growing In Christ – Part Two

People holding hands to form a circle               
               The next part of growth that Peter mentioned was for first century Christians to “have compassion one of another” (1 Pet. 3:8).  Every Christian has his own temptations and difficulties.  Recognizing that truth helps us to sympathize and empathize with our brethren.  Paul instructed, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.  Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:1-2).  Instead of making things worse for our suffering brethren, we should do what we can to lighten his load.  A great example of this is found in the parable of the Samaritan.  In that parable, a man had been brutally attacked and left “half dead” (Luke 10:30).  On two separate occasions, a priest and Levite each had the opportunity to show compassion for the injured man (Luke 10:31-32).  Neither of those men showed compassion.  Instead, a Samaritan, which would have been held in low regard by many Jews, did show compassion (Luke 10:33).  The Samaritan did what he could to make sure that the injured man received the care that he needed.  That included the Samaritan using his own resources, including money (Luke 10:34-35).  How truly wonderful it would be if all Christians demonstrated that type of compassion to their brethren!

               As Peter continued, he indicated that Christians should “love as brethren” (1 Pet. 3:8).  There is no doubt that brotherly love is required of those who are Christ’s.  The writer of Hebrews simply stated, “Let brotherly love continue” (Heb. 13:1).  Jesus put it this way, “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you” (John 15:12).  He had already established that point previously when He said, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.  By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:34-35).  If we cannot love each other the way that Christ demands, then we definitely have a lot of spiritual growth that still needs to take place.  We should love the church of Christ intensely, and never forget that Jesus also said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

               Peter also stated that the first century Christians needed to “be pitiful” (1 Pet. 3:8).  It is good at this time to explain that the word pitiful is used differently here than the way that some use it today.  To understand what Peter meant, we should deconstruct the word.  In this context, “pitiful” means to be full of pity.  In other words, Christians should be the type of people who are willing to care for the plights of life of others.  This is a godly characteristic.  James indicated that fact when he wrote, “Behold, we count them happy which endure.  Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy” (James 5:11).  Where would we be if God did not have pity on us?  Long ago, the Psalmist expressed the need for pity, but did not find such from his fellow man.  “Reproach hath broken my heart; and I am full of heaviness:  and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none” (Psm. 69:20).  It is easy to see how closely connected pity is with compassion.  Both are required in the growth of a Christian.

               Then Peter mentioned that the first century Christians needed to “be courteous” (1 Pet. 3:8).  It is sad to see how little of this quality is shown from time to time.  Being “courteous” is the idea of being kind toward someone else.  There is so much unkindness in the world that it sometimes seems out of place when someone demonstrates courtesy.  Christians should spiritually grow to a point that courtesy/kindness is a regular behavior in their lives.  There is an old saying that goes, “A little kindness doesn’t cost anything”.  It is amazing how many doors of opportunity are shut because someone refused to be courteous.  Simply being kind and considerate goes a long way when trying to get along with our fellow man.  The apostle Paul also wrote about this in his letter to the brethren in Ephesus.  He stated, “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:  And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Eph. 4:31-32).  This kindness should be shown even if other Christians are disciplining an erring brother.  Paul wrote, “And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.  Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother” (2 Thess 3:14-15).  (To be concluded…)
~ Corey Barnette