Interesting how Peter brings us through these progressive steps, these qualities to make your calling and election sure, isn’t it? We reached the lofty quality of godliness yesterday, which is a gift given as we pass through the fires of testing. We are purified as we persevere through the fire that burns away useless things and softens our hearts to stand in God’s presence. We stand before the audience of One; that’s godliness.
Then suddenly, we take a strange turn with this next step through Peter’s list. We are challenged by the elder apostle to make every effort to go from faith, to virtue, to knowledge, to self-control, to perseverance, to godliness, and then strangely we are led into a very different quality, brotherly kindness. Isn’t that a natural thing? It’s hardly spiritual, is it?
Brotherly kindness is loving your neighbor. When Jesus was asked about the way to heaven, he reduced all the Mosaic laws down to just two:
1. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength; and
2. Love your neighbor as yourself.
When asked “Who is my neighbor?”, Jesus answered with a story and ended with a very different answer than was expected. The teacher of the law expected clarity about which people he was to love in order to fulfill the law. But Jesus response gave an example of an outsider, a despised Samaritan, who showed kindness to a victim of a brutal robbery.
This Good Samaritan’s kindnesses contrasted with the religious people who passed by the poor man who needed help. And then Jesus answered the question with another question.
“Who was the good neighbor?”
Jesus flipped the jot and tittle, fine print legalisms of the religious person’s question on its head. He turned the word “neighbor” from a noun to a verb.
Don’t ask “Who is my neighbor?”; ask instead “How can I be neighborly?”
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”Luke 10:36-37
Brotherly kindness is common kindness. It is engaging with the world, with your neighbor, in ways that any other person with a human heart would do. You don’t need to be a religious expert to show kindness.
And yet, Peter sets this quality after all these prior qualities of faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance and godliness. He says, do the common thing now that you know God and you have been tested in the fire and you stand in my presence. Be human. That is an essential, and almost final quality necessary to confirm you calling.