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“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. For ‘Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; Let him turn away from evil and do good; Let him speak peace and pursue it. 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.'” (1 Peter 3:8-12 ESV)

Not surprisingly, surveys continually reflect a positive correlation between faith and one’s health and well-being. Those for whom religion is important generally experience greater peace of mind, better health, superior coping skills, and a more positive outlook on life than the non-religious do. And if that is true of religion in general with all its spiritually misguided and dangerous teachings, how much more is it true of the Biblical and Christian faith, which alone focuses confidently on the “more abundant” life blessings and promises won and secured for us by God’s grace in Christ Jesus? Those who truly “love life” and “see good days” (Psalm 34: 12-16 NIV) are those who have the forgiveness of sins, real peace with God, and a sure eternal hope for the future.

In recent chapters, Peter has focused on the Christian’s attitude in various relationships. Now attention turns toward our spiritual family relationships. Satan’s attack mode against faithful churches is two-pronged. If he cannot destroy their unity through false teaching, he will seek to disrupt it by discord. By exposing, exploiting, and magnifying weaknesses of congregation members, and by fueling them with fleshly selfishness, pride, and envy, his goals can easily be accomplished. Many a pastor, well-equipped to handle doctrinal matters that arise, has found himself struggling with member relationship issues that so easily disrupt the Spirit-intended joy and blessing of Christian fellowship.

It happens in our earthly families, and it happens in our spiritual families. Non-doctrinal “division” was problematic in the early Corinth church, and it remains so today. Personality conflicts, grudge-holding, failure to forgive and forget, judgmental attitudes, cliquishness, and demanding conformity in non-doctrinal areas are all used by Satan to fan the flames of discord and division in a church family. How easily we forget the miracle of grace by which God brought us together into this special family of faith! How often we fail to focus on the many blessings we have enjoyed in our church family! O wretched people that we sometimes are! Who can help us and heal our relationships?

Thankfully, the Spirit through Peter provides wise counsel for both pastor and member. Begin with an honest and repentant look inside our own hearts and then, in faith, gaze into the loving and forgiving heart of Christ, which we also seek to emulate. Five things are stressed: “unity of mind” (oneness of faith and confession of Christ and His Word), “sympathy” (caring about those struggling and suffering), “brotherly love” (as family in Christ), “a tender heart” (like unto Christ Himself), and “a humble mind” (that sees the sin-log in his own eye from which Christ has delivered him).

Pray for the Spirit’s help to assimilate these Christ-like attitudes into your own heart and into the hearts of your brothers and sisters in Christ. While Satan seeks to tear down, may we in Christian love seek to edify (build up) one another in faith. “For to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.” (v. 9)

How easily we forget the miracle of grace by which God brought us together into this special family of faith!

David Schierenbeck is a retired pastor and a member of the CLC Board of Doctrine. He lives in St. Paul Park, Minnesota.