Have you ever been the recipient of a special act of kindness? Someone went out of their way to help you when you needed a hand. Someone did something nice that lifted your spirits. Someone offered a word of encouragement when you were down. Someone was kind to you even when you had failed to be kind. How did that make you feel?
When was the last time you did a deed of kindness for someone? It is possible that we sometimes get so busy and preoccupied with our work or other concerns of our own lives that we miss those opportunities to show kindness toward others.
Peter says we need to add to godliness the grace of “brotherly kindness” (2 Pet. 1:7). The word is philadelphia, which means “brotherly affection,” “brotherly love” or “love of brethren.” “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love” (Rom. 12:10). “Let love of the brethren continue” (Heb. 13:1).
It almost seems redundant that, in the list of graces in 2 Peter 1, the next (and last) is “charity” or “love” (agape). The two words are often used interchangeably, or at least overlap in meaning in some contexts. But Peter seems to make a distinction between them here. While agape is the active goodwill that should be extended to all, philadelphia here refers specifically to that love or kindness that is expressed especially toward our brethren—those in the family of God.
The special relationship that we have with God is summed up in the fact that God has shown his kindness toward us through Christ (Eph. 2:7). That relationship with God means that we have a special relationship with God’s children—our spiritual brothers and sisters. “Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another” (1 Thess. 4:9). The practical effect or manifestation of this relationship is that there is a familial bond—a tie that binds our hearts together—that causes us to empathize with one another.
How can we demonstrate brotherly love? Be kind, patient, and forgiving because we have been “chosen of God” (Col. 3:12).
Be ready to help our brethren when they are in need. “Let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith” (Gal. 6:10).
Be ready to extend hospitality and other acts of kindness to our brethren. “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaint” (1 Pet. 4:8).
Be ready to offer spiritual help and encouragement to our brethren when they are weak. “We urge you brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone” (1 Thess. 5:14). Spiritual weakness and loss of courage is the most serious kind of distress that we can experience. Let’s remember that our admonitions and attempts to restore are themselves acts of love and brotherly kindness, and so should always be done in that spirit.