Our Lord in His Sermon on the Mount plainly stated what has come to be known as “the Golden Rule.” He said: “And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.” (Luke 6:31)
Peter, in his first epistle, succinctly stated another brief rule for Christian living when in I Peter 3:8 the Apostle that in the Garden on the way to Calvary took out his sword and smote off an ear of the High Priest’s servant, said, “Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous.” Neatly wrapped up into one sentence Peter gives his readers what might be considered “Five Golden Rules” for Christ-like living in a world in which we live as pilgrims.
First, be ye all of one mind, governing our relationship to other believers. It means that in the body of Christ there should be a “same mindedness.” Paul, writing to a “near perfect” church, admonished that the church needed to exhort Euodias and Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. (Phil.4:2) In that same epistle Paul characterized believers as those who should have the “mind of Christ,” and His mind was first a mind of humility: “But He made Himself of no reputation and took upon Him the form of a servant and was made in the likeness of men…He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” (Phil.2:5-8) There should, then, be an absence of division and divisiveness in His Church and, as someone aptly noted, “nothing will get the attention of the world as this.”
It has been noted that flocks of geese often fly in “V” formation. In so doing, each bird, flapping its wings, creates an upward lift for the goose that follows. When each goose is flying in formation it has been calculated that the whole flock has a 71% greater flying range than if they were to fly alone. When one goose begins to lag behind, other geese begin to “honk” that lagger back into formation. Even in the natural world, God has created an illustration for us of the power of like-mindedness!
Next, Peter posits that as believers there ought to be “compassion one of another.” Compassion causes us to “feel with” others. When it is practiced, judgmentalism is not actively present. People who are compassionate one to another pray genuinely for those who are suffering or weak and they will give purposefully of themselves and of their means to minister to those who are in need of special help. It will move us to enter into the grief and disappointment that our brothers and sisters in Christ are living with. We have a high priest, a mediator between God and us, who can be touched with the feelings of our infirmities, and this will move us to be touched likewise because of the infirmities of our family in the faith as well as the larger community of unbelievers.
D.L. Moody painted a word picture of Jesus in His risen body meeting with and commissioning His disciples to go into all the world with the gospel. Moody pictures wide-eyed Peter as he asks Jesus if they must go to the soldiers who drove the nails into His hands. Again, Peter questions whether they would need to go to the man that drove the spear through His side; and Jesus replies “Yes, tell him there’s a nearer way to my heart than that.” And those early disciples entered into the compassions of their Savior as the Holy Spirit came upon them “and broke down all their boundary walls.” Thus, Peter would later write “…have compassion one toward another.”
Next, the Apostle, who in the shadow of His cross denied that he even knew Jesus of Nazareth, would exhort his students to “love as brethren.” Every blood-bought believer has the same relationship to the Father: we are sons of God by faith. Each of us has in store the same inheritance “… incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you.” (I Pet.1:4) Every one of us who name His name have the exact same privileges (adoption, security, spiritual power), the same access through Christ to God the Father in prayer; the same provisions (“all of your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus”) (Phil.4:19), and the same promises in and through His Word. How can we not love our family and how cannot that love reach beyond family to fellow travelers in this broken world who so desperately need the hope and help that God’s Good News provides?
“Oh, the love that God must have had for the world when He gave His Son to die for it! ‘God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.’ (John 3:16) I have never been able to preach from that text. I have often thought I would; but it is so high that I can never climb to its height; I have just quoted it and passed on. Who can fathom the depths of those words: ‘God so loved the world’? We can never scale the heights of His love or fathom the depths.” (D.L. Moody). But Peter simply says “Love as brethren.”
Fourth: Be pitiful. That means, “have a tender heart.” Do not be quick to cut off others; do not be calloused to the misery of others; do not be insulated from the distresses of others. Here is the gold standard: “In all their affliction He (God) was afflicted, and the angel of His presence saved them: in His love and in His pity, He redeemed them; and He bare them, and carried them all the days of old.” (Isaiah 63:9) Knowing what He has done for His undeserving people, can we not “be pitiful?”
Finally, “Be Courteous.” You can do this if you but recognize your position as a servant, and then acknowledge your privilege as a co-laborer. Jesus who said that He did not come to be ministered to but to minister and who most often called Himself a servant always displayed courteousness, even when goaded and treated in the most inhumane way. Whether in answering those who asked Him questions as they would try to trip Him up and in responding to ill-founded charges against Him, or to replying to those who would criminally crucify Him, Jesus never spoke unkindly or acted discourteously. Can we allow ourselves, His ambassadors in this foreign age, to do less?
So, for the remainder of 2022, we have our work cut out for us: Be all of one mind; have compassion one of another; love as brethren, be pitiful and be courteous. Can’t do it? You are right! You can’t, but He can and will do it through you:
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless, I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.” (Gal.2:20)