The last two traits on Peter’s great list that God “has granted to us all”1 are brotherly affection and love. Although they might sound like the same thing, they are not at all. Brotherly affection is kindness. Kindness is always that thing that is never required, always unexpected, and rarely experienced. If mercy is unmerited favor, kindness is unmerited special treatment. When was the last time any of us did an act of kindness for someone else? And how often do we do those kindnesses? 😒
Did you know that there is a Random Acts of Kindness Organization? It was founded in 1995, started out in San Francisco and then moved to Colorado. Their mission? Make kindness the norm. If you visit their website, you can find RAK calendars, posters, bookmarks, coloring books, bingo games, quotes, videos, information on how to start a RAK club, how to infiltrate the workplace with RAK, etc. There are RAK designated days of the year, RAK activities, and an RAK Blog. It’s a thing! 🤪 And I applaud the foundation and its participants. I’m tempted to buy a calendar. Or make a t-shirt.
But here’s what I have observed. Acts of kindness are intentional. The people receiving the kindnesses may be random, but the kindnesses themselves are rarely accidental. Kindness has purpose and thoughtfulness embedded in it. So, the people who have the characteristic of being kind have reached a high level of living. They are generally selfless people who are not hurried or flustered by things not going according to plan. There are very few kind people. Maybe some monks are kind. Even though I appreciate the RAK movement, I think their mission statement will never be achieved. Kindness will never be the norm. It just won’t. RAK people are demanding the impossible from humans. Humans are mostly self-centered sinners. Some of you might be touting, I’m nice! 😠 But that’s not the same thing. I can be nice! Nice is pleasing and agreeable. And might I add to the list bland and boring? 😶 But kindness? That always includes something extra.
Of course, “the Lord is righteous in all his ways, and kind in all his works.”2 And “love is patient and kind.”3 And we are commanded to “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”4 And the fruit of the Spirit includes kindness.5 So, we are to pursue kindness, but it is a high calling, right under the trait of love.
Which is our last trait. And what can we say about love? Read 1 Corinthians 13 to get a big picture. But for the best example, go to Christ. For “God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”6 Since I cannot add anything to that, I will stop. Although I think Peter’s traits are listed in a specific order from easiest to hardest, they do overlap. We can have moments of brotherly kindness while we are still mastering knowledge and times of self-control while we struggle with goodness.
If Peter’s list of traits that God has granted to us feel unattainable, it is because they are; that is, we cannot achieve them by ourselves nor have much success in them for very long. That is why God has given them to us by “his divine power.”1 They are gifts. And they are ours to help us “escape the corruption that is in the world caused by evil desires.”7 But more so, they are ours to enable us to “become partakers in the divine nature.”7 They are only for believers but some believers will not exhibit these qualities because “he has forgotten he was cleansed from his former sins,”8 which means that he has not escaped “the corruption that is in the world.”7
Even for those who understand we have been set free from our sins, it is confusing to know that we have received these great gifts, yet we still have to “make every effort to supplement [our] faith with”9 them. Then later, Peter adds that we must “be all the more diligent to confirm [our] calling and election,”10 to ascertain them. But we must realize that being “conformed to the image of his Son”11—and that’s what is going on here—is a life-long endeavor.
God has not left us by ourselves, unarmed and unprotected and unable to live a godly life for him while we await our new heaven and earth. Instead, he has given us everything we need to become more like Jesus. And one more thing. Peter says God’s promise is not that we will never fall once we perfect these qualities but that “if [we] practice these qualities [we] will never fall.”10
Let’s go practice! 🙂
12 Peter 1:3 2Psalm 145:17 31 Corinthians 13:4 4Ephesians 4:32 5Galatians 5:22 6Romans 5:5 72 Peter 1:4 82 Peter 1:9 92 Peter 1:5 102 Peter 1:10 11Romans 8:29