…make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive… 2 Peter 1:5-8
Shortly before his death at the hands of the Roman government, Simon Peter wrote two letters to the churches of Asia Minor (See- 1Peter 1:1). It is clear that Peter was Jesus’ right-hand man. In this short passage we see Peter’s encouragement to add specific qualities and characteristics to our faith so that we might be the fully prepared for life itself.
It seems like Peter is asking to build upon our faith one block at a time and it begins with knowledge. Faith doesn’t require knowledge but having information or facts about God can help each of us to understand the nature of God and the world around us. The more I learn about God the easier I find it to trust Him and God’s will for my life. However, many people confuse having knowledge of God with faith. Trust is not knowledge.
Being a person of faith, it is clear that some things are better for me than other things. The ability to say “no” to some things is not easy, but it is a sign of maturity. It is not difficult to avoid things that cause pain but I don’t think that is what Peter had in mind. As it is, don’t we pray “And lead us not into temptation” on a regular basis? That is because there may be things that give short term satisfaction but hurt us in the long haul. Temptations are like a wolf in sheep’s clothing… we will eventually be bitten. More than that, we are examples to others. Someone is always watching us.
String enough “no’s” together and you develop perseverance. This is the ability to stand by your beliefs. This is integrity. The more we are able to walk away from temptation, the easier it becomes. Endurance and perseverance leads to constancy. When you are known as being steadfast, others will come to you for help and advice.
Who doesn’t want to reflect the nature and will of God? I know I do. As I said last Sunday, when Jesus returns one day, I want Him to be able to recognize qualities of the Kingdom of God within me. Clearly, no one ever quit being a Christian because it was too easy. This is challenging stuff! I sincerely strive to reflect the love and grace of God in everything I do. The path to that goal is through knowledge, self-control and perseverance. There is no short cuts to achieve this goal! Thankfully God gives us all the time and forgiveness we need.
Godliness should lead to mutual affection. That is nice way of saying, people like you and you like people. The Greek word is Philadelphia or better known as “brotherly love.” It is the first step toward a larger love. We begin with training wheels. In a lot of ways, this is a stepping stone to something better but definitely more difficult. We begin with liking and being liked by people who are comparable to siblings… like fellow Christians.
It shouldn’t be a surprise we end here. Why? Because love is where we begin. We wouldn’t even be having this discussion if God didn’t love us first. But this is more than brotherly love. This is agape love, unconditional love. You know, the kind of love God has for sinners (like us). Love that is not reciprocated. This kind of love is sometimes translated as “charity.” Why charity? Charity is a gift that often goes unnoticed or received without gratitude. This is the highest of all types of love because it requires nothing in return. Because of that, it is the hardest to give. Maybe that is why it is the last on the list, because it is the hardest to achieve for most people.
These verses remind us the importance of spiritual growth (one of our core values). We don’t have to grow spiritually, but I hope we do. Yes, we will still make mistakes and sometimes become stagnant in our faith but God’s unconditional love will never leave us. Jesus is the proof of that.