3 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
5 For this very reason, 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; 7 and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.
8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. (emphasis added)
When I struggle with brotherly/sisterly love and agape love toward the church and unbelievers, the core can be traced in this scripture to a very specific cause:
Forgetting that I have been cleansed from past sins. Forgetting His promises. Forgetting that I've been called by His own glory and goodness. Forgetting that He has given me everthing I need for life and godliness.
The Gospel is still the answer!
Much has been said about the ever-increasing virutes of goodness, knowledge, self-control, perservence, and godliness which I don't have time to write about, unfortunately.
However, this time around I found it interesting that brotherly kindness and love are called out as separate disciplines. It probably would not have suprised Peter's contemporary readers who knew Greek. There are two different words for these terms: phileo and agape. Agape is God's love and is a supernatural kind of love that the natural world has no ability to comprehend and can only experience through common grace and in its dealings with the true Church/body of Christ.
Phileo love is an affection which Peter encourages his readers to add to their faith by loving their brothers and sisters in Christ. It referes to a warm familial term that reflects the deep bonds of love that bind together families and one with which the world (non-believers) could identify analogously. Those who grew up in the nurture and love a good family should also apply the love that they konw to the Church as their extended family.
Agape Love is Christian love. Love that can only be known by those who have been born again by God's grace. The Love of God (Agape) as an attitude is modeled after the love of Christ. The Savior loved us first - the undesirables and outcasts of society. He came for the poor, broken, and sinful. Contrast Jesus’ attitudes with those of the Pharisees. Their arrogant, narrow, separatist spirit did not reflect the love of Christ.
So, when I forget the irresistable grace of God and His Love for such a broken and poor sinner as I am, it is inevitable that my relationships with those in and out of the church will suffer. When I begin each day with the Word of God and my devotional - daily reminder of God's active grace in my life, relationships tend to lean closer toward that which I've been called to share - Agape.