Peter is not commanding Christians to unite with pseudo-Christians who hold doctrinal positions that amount to heresy. Instead, he is telling us to not be disruptive or cause disharmony within the Body of Christ which is united by holding to the truth. How do we behave toward one another when we do this?
12 Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. James 1:12 (NASB)
I grew up as a Southern Baptist. I have heard a lot of very good preaching in my 68+ years. However, I have also heard a lot of what I would call now-a-days, humanistic preaching. Until just a few years ago I really didn’t know the difference, or if I did, then it was that the former was grounded deeper into the Word of God than the latter. The biblically based preaching was always geared toward the eternal even if talking about the temporal. The humanistic preaching was always geared to the temporal even when talking about the eternal. Do you see the difference?
If we have a temporal focus, suffering of any type for any reason is regarded as tragic and something God would and should prevent. The fact a person is sick or is persecuted are events that prove that someone has sinned or does not have enough faith or isn’t praying enough, etc. How should Christians regard suffering by believers?
13 Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, 15 but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; 16 and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. 17 For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong. 1 Peter 3:13-17 (NASB)
In 1 Peter 3:8 we are commanded to be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit. The two Greek words translated as “harmonious” mean “to think the same” or “to be like-minded.” This is not a command to have unity in spite of differences. This is a command to be unified by believing the truth. This is a concept of maintaining inward unity of heart. Again, Peter is not commanding Christians to unite with pseudo-Christians who hold doctrinal positions that amount to heresy. Instead, he is telling us to not be disruptive or cause disharmony within the Body of Christ which is united by holding to the truth. How do we behave toward one another when we do this? The rest of v8 tells us. We are to be “sympathetic.” This is one word in Greek that in some translations read, “having compassion one of another.” it simply means to be compassionate with each other. When someone is suffering we come along side them to minister as the Lord leads. We are to be “brotherly” with one another. This is also translated as, “love as brethren.” All Christians are brothers and sisters in Christ. We are adopted children of God. We should actively love one another with that “brotherly love.” We are also to be “kindhearted” with one another. The KJV translates this as, “pitiful.” We are not to be cold towards other Christians or hard hearted towards their needs and suffering. Instead we should regard the suffering or weaknesses of our brethren with softness and gentleness. Am I the only one who sees Christ’s character in these descriptions? The last part of Peter’s command is for us to be “humble in spirit”. I find this very interesting. Our biggest battle is against our pride, isn’t it? It sure is with me. The Greek word translated here as “humble in spirit” is rendered as “courteous” in the KJV.” The Greek words combined to make this word actually would translate as “friendly of mind.” I find that this quality of my character, when it is actively present, surprises me the most. This is the quality of our outer bearing that causes people to see Jesus in our demeanor.