The Good Life: The Right Attitude
To many people, “the good life” consists of luxury and ease. 1 Peter is a letter addressed to Christians who were suffering persecution; luxury and ease were completely out of reach. Yet despite their troubles, the Apostle told them they could love life and see good days (3:10). In this section (3:8-17), Peter portrays the good life as consisting of three elements: the right attitude, the right action, and the right reaction.
What is the right attitude? “To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit” (v. 8). Most commentators treat this verse as discussing Christians’ relations with each other. While that is a legitimate application, the context, both before and after, is Christians in relation to those who are not. Consider it in that light.
Harmonious is often used in musical contexts, suggesting sounds that are pleasant because they are in agreement or blend together well. Peter’s word means like-minded. The point is, we need to be disposed to try to get along with others, to blend as much as possible. To be sure, Christians and people of the world will often clash because of our fundamental differences, but in Paul’s words, “If possible, as much as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (Romans 12:18).
Sympathetic conveys the same idea, with special emphasis on sharing another’s feelings. Instead of being aloof, we need to learn to rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15). While this is especially true of Christians toward each other, being sympathetic goes a long way toward establishing better relationships with those outside the body of Christ.
Brotherly is one of the New Testament words for love, philadelphos, a friendly, affectionate, personal love. Without loving the world, a Christian can act lovingly toward people of the world. We can and must be friendly and personable.
Kindhearted or tenderhearted (NKJV) points to emotions, to pity (KJV) or compassion (NIV) which prompts helpful actions on our part. Such compassion has no higher expression than an effort to teach the lost the saving gospel of Jesus Christ.
Humility is also essential. Due to a textual variation, the NKJV says “courteous.” The two go hand-in-hand. Humility is the foundation of courtesy. Rude, self-centered people do not have the good life: they are not happy, nor do they improve the lives of others. Our humility springs from knowing that we are completely dependent on the Lord and his grace. “By the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Corinthians 15:10a). We are servants, and ironically, greatness is in service.
Are you living the genuine “good life?”