by Erin Bird
This past Sunday, we looked at 1 Corinthians 12:12-26. Through that passage, we saw that unity is one of the benefits when each Jesus-follower in a church family uses their spiritual gifts for the common good. One of Jesus' closest disciples, Peter, also touches on this same topic and gives four ways church unity can be achieved. Here is what he wrote:
"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."
1 Peter 3:8-9
Notice in verse 8, Peter instructs his readers to have "unity of mind." He then lists 4 things that will help achieve that unity.
Back in 1 Corinthians 12:26, we saw Paul mention that in a unified church, when one suffers, all suffer. Peter says the same thing in one word: sympathy. When someone in your church family faces something tough, you feel it with them. A unified church will walk through the difficulties together, having sympathy for one another.
Likewise, back in 1 Corinthians 12:26, we saw Paul also say that when one rejoices, all rejoice. When you are experiencing unity, you don't feel jealousy when something great happens to someone like the birth of a child, getting a new job or promotion, getting married, or winning a award. Rather, because you have brotherly love for that person, you celebrate with them. When you care for someone, you feel as if you share a little bit in their moment when they have something good happen.
Along with brotherly love, a gospel-saturated life will develop within you a tender heart. Then you will seek to be sensitive to the needs of those around you. When someone says something harsh, your tough hide deflects it, and your tender heart sees through their pain and you actually hurt for them rather than be offended by them.
When talking about the spiritual gifts in Romans 12, Paul tells the Jesus-followers in Rome to "not to think more highly of yourself than you ought to think." When you are full of pride, your thoughts dwell on yourself. But when you have a humble mind, your thoughts dwell on others and how you can bless them.
Also notice that Peter gives two barriers to unity: repaying evil for evil and reviling (insults) with reviling.
When you want revenge (repaying evil with evil), you can't have unity. Revenge is all about making someone feel the pain you felt. When hurtful words are said to us, our human response is to say hurtful words back. This doesn't create unity because it doesn't draw the heart of the other person toward you; it pushes them away.
Instead, have a tough hide and let the insults and evil be deflected off of you and absorbed by the gospel of Jesus. Then your tender heart and brotherly love will pour out for the other person. This is what Paul says at the end of chapter 12 in his letter to the Romans:
"Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay,' says the Lord. To the contrary, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."
When you overcome evil with good, when you have sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind, you will experience a church unity you never thought possible! It is tough to achieve; you have to fight against your natural tendency to hurt those who hurt you. But when you respond with grace, when you seek to be a blessing to others, amazing things happen!
And I look forward to experiencing it with you for years to come. 🙂
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