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God is with you - Part 21

1 Peter 3v8

Live in harmony with one another

11th August 2017

1 Peter 3v8
Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.

Peter hasn't stopped writing his letter, but he is coming to the end of a section of that letter, in which he's been talking about humility and submission. He ends by talking about our relationships with other Christians, urging us to live in harmony with each other.

The idea of Jesus failing to live in harmony with anyone is unthinkable. He's the Prince of Peace. Jesus submitted to Roman authority. He submitted to ungodly Jewish authority. He submitted to Judas Iscariot. He dwelt in harmony with all.

I know there was a moment when he drove the money changers out of the temple, but that was very much the exception. And that wasn't for his own sake; it was for his father's house which was being abused. He was zealous for the temple, not for his own rights, but for God the Father.

And there were times when He confronted the religious leaders, but that was because they were abusing the people.

As Paul wrote, "As far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone" (Romans 12v18).

Where the NIV has "live in harmony", the ESV (which I usually prefer) says "Have unity of mind". I prefer the NIV here because, although both are legitimate linguistically, we can't be absolutely like-minded, and we don't need to be absolutely like-minded to be harmonious.

For example, I have a dear friend called David Bloomfield. He's a lovely man of God and a great preacher. He disagrees with me about the doctrine of predestination, but my relationship with David is 100% harmonious. Another great friend called Les Payce, another great Christian and fine preacher, disagrees with me about the details of the second coming of our Lord Jesus. Again, Les and I live in complete harmony.

You don't have to agree about everything to live in harmony with one another. There's so much more that we do agree about, so why don't we focus on that? So for example, Les and I see the second coming slightly differently, but we worship the same Lord. David and I see predestination slightly differently, but we're saved by the same blood, we're members of the same universal church, we're filled with the same Holy Spirit, we're going to the same place at the end, we're one in Christ and we don't argue. We see things differently, but we disagree agreeably.

I know Christians who can agree disagreeably, but we choose to disagree agreeably. We choose be in harmony and say, "Well, my brother sees this, and I see that, and we're both probably wrong a little bit, but it doesn't matter as much as the fact that we serve the same Lord." We all want to reach the lost. We all want glorify God. We all want to live holy lives. Why would be fight?

We can say, "Yes, we disagree about this thing, but so what? We're all brothers and sisters together."

And when we forget this, or when we choose to make a big deal out of a difference of opinion, we do so much harm. And - more than that - we've stopped living the way Jesus lived. We've stopped being Christ-like. We've started saying, "My opinion is more important than your opinion. My dream is better than your dream. My theology is better than your theology".

(Of course, we all think our theology is better, otherwise we'd change our minds, but we can humbly understand that we're bound to be wrong - or, at least, not completely right - about something)

It's OK that we don't see absolutely eye-to-eye about the fifteenth decimal point about everything we say and do, because we're all Christians together. We can live in harmony one with another. We can chose not to argue, choose not to accuse, choose not to insult, choose not to tell stories about each other.

If your brother has some stories he'd rather weren't aired in public, don't air them. Protect your brother from accusation. Protect your brother from gossip. Protect your brother from insult. Love covers a multitude of sins. Live in harmony. Be sympathetic.

I think the word sympathetic means try to feel what the other person feels. If the other person is sad, be sad with them. If the other person rejoices, rejoice with them. If the other person is frightened, enter into their emotional state. Here's a Christian cliché: you can walk with them. Be with them in whatever they're going through. If someone if suffering, go and suffer with them.

Paul said "Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn." (Romans 12v15).

If someone is sick, visit them. If someone is struggling, make them a cup of tea. Don't give them a lecture on counting their blessings. Don't give them a sermon on "All things work together for good". Just love them in their difficult circumstances.

Some of us are better at this than others. Some of us pick up other people's emotional states better than others. But to the degree that you can do it, be sympathetic.

Love as brothers - philadelphia - brotherly love - love fellow Christians as your brothers and sisters, because that's what they are. We are brothers and sisters. We serve the same God. We're adopted into the same family. We have the same Father.

When someone says, "That brother is such a blessing to me, he loves me like a brother". Well yes, he is your brother. It should be normal for us to love each other like family, because we are God's family.

Sometimes one of us will stumble, will do something they shouldn't do, or say something they didn't ought to say, or something someone did years ago will get discovered, or something. Be compassionate. Don't hang them out to dry. Just love them and include them and help them to be restored to the fellowship of the church. No matter what someone's done, it's not beyond God's forgiveness, and it's not beyond God's restoration. Whatever someone has said or done, even if it's to you personally, God still loves them. God still cares, and God still wants you to love them as brothers.

In the parable of the prodigal son, the father welcomes the younger son with open arms, and the elder brother should do the same, but sometimes he doesn't.

Whatever sin your brother is caught up in, love him and help to restore him. No matter how bad he feels, reach out to him, and help him to know you're there for him.

Humility in this context must include remembering that I'm a sinner too, remembering that if we treat people as they deserve then I will burn in hell for all eternity.

When we look at our brother in Christ, or someone who is not jet our brother in Christ, we could think, "He's a sinner" but when we point the finger, three fingers point straight back, because we know that we're sinners too.

How dare we judge our brother? How dare we judge the non-Christian who hasn't had our advantages, who hasn't been enlightened by the Holy Spirit, who hasn't been brought to faith and repentance by the power, love and compassion of God?

Let's never stop loving our brother or our neighbour, whatever he's said and whatever he's done. Knowing that we, too, need to be forgiven, why on earth would be judge others? Let us forgive with compassion and humility, knowing that we too need to be forgiven.