Yesterday, we started talking about Scripture’s “Magnificent Seven” and covered virtue, knowledge, temperance (self-control), and patience (endurance). We’ll finish that up with the last three of the Mag Seven: godliness, brotherly kindness and charity (love).
“Godliness” means “God-likeness.” God created mankind to be an image bearer of Himself. “And God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness’” (Genesis 1:26a). When man sinned, that image was marred. Redemption is God’s means of restoring that image once again. It will ultimately be restored when believers get to heaven. In the meantime, it is our task in this life to be the best image bearers of God that we can be by His grace. The word we translate as “godliness” is the Greek word eusebeia. Literally translated it means “to be devout well.” Godliness gets a bad reputation because many people who call themselves believers gut what godliness is by focusing only on the externals. They want to look godly but not be godly. Godliness, when done right, is upward, inward and outward. It worships God. It submits to God’s will, making changes and cooperating with God to be more like Him, and it seeks to serve others.
“Brotherly kindness,” if I may borrow someone else’s definition, “is showing special concern for my brothers and sisters in Christ.” That’s not to say we do not care about others; it just means that fellow believers are family. The wonderful thing about God’s family is that it transcends all boundaries. Your racial, social, economic status, etc. holds no special sway in the family of God. What matters is the common bond of faith in Christ. As brothers and sisters in Christ, we are to help one another with earthly needs, yes, but we are also to help one another achieve greater and greater godliness. That means accountability and sometimes confrontation. By that, I mean speaking the truth to one another in love, not in holier-than-thou judgement.
“Charity,” better understood as “love” is the Greek word agape [ah-GAH-pay]. The ultimate example of agape love, of course, is Jesus Christ Himself. From His example we can see that agape love is self-sacrificial: Jesus gave Himself on the cross to save us from our sins. It is characterized by action: Jesus did not just say that He loved us; He proved it by everything He did and continues to do. It is also known for humility and service: “And being found in fashion as a man, He [Jesus] humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:8). When we look at the life of Christ, we see that He was not just willing to die for God; He was willing to live for God as well. Everywhere He went, He did the will of the Father even if it met with open opposition.
These character qualities of the Christian walk are daunting. They are ideals and we can look at them and say: “I can never get there.” That’s true if you’re looking up at them and only looking to yourself to get there. But remember, before Peter even got to these verses, he reminded us of the “exceeding great and precious promises: that by these [we] might be partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4a) – and Peter is speaking from personal experience. It’s as though we are climbing a mountain and Peter is just a few feet above us and he’s reaching his hand down to help pull us up, and just above him is the Lord Himself hanging onto Peter and pulling him up. This climb is not something we do alone. It’s something we do together with the Lord’s help and the help of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
In the movie The Magnificent Seven, the gunslingers helped the villagers learn to protect themselves even though the villagers were reluctant at times to try. I know it didn’t end well for the Mag Seven, but for us it can, and it will. We can incorporate these seven character qualities into our lives and see real change because we have the Author of those qualities working with us to help get us there.