In Peter’s list of characteristics, the previous traits have primarily focused on change within the individual and his relationship with God. Brotherly kindness is a characteristic that extends to God’s people. It is an active show of affection towards one’s brethren.
Like the other graces, this one relates to the previous traits. Our faith binds us as brethren and it is natural that brotherly kindness would characterize those whom God has called together into one body. Moral excellence demands that we maintain proper relationships with one another and encourage our brother’s morality. Brotherly kindness helps us temper our knowledge so that we do not use it to hurt our brethren, 1 Corinthians 8.
Self-control is essential in close relationships with our brethren. We must watch our tongues and our actions so that we do not sin against the brethren. Patience strengthens brotherly kindness in longsuffering. We have to be patient with our brother’s spiritual growth and in times of disagreement. Through all of our brotherly relationships, godliness helps us see our brother from God’s perspective—as a soul needing salvation—and realize that we are all one in Christ.
We demonstrate brotherly kindness by proper displays of affection. In some cultures, people welcome each other with kisses on each cheek. Other cultures bow in respect. In our culture, we shake hands with one another to show affection. Romans 12:10 tells us to be “kindly affectionate to one another and honor each other.” Rudeness is unacceptable at any time but especially among those claiming to be one body united under Jesus.
This is not to say that we will always agree with one another. When we disagree, we should go to our brethren and try to work out the problem. If it is a spiritual matter, Jesus has prescribed steps that we must take to resolve the sin, Matthew 18:15-17. If we ignore it, we put his soul in peril and we will have to answer for our negligence, James 5:19-20. If the disagreement is a personal matter, work it out so that malice and bitterness does not develop. Of course, personal matters should never become a cause for division in the Lord’s body. Paul warned, in Galatians 5:13-15, that we must not “bite and devour one another lest we be consumed.” In hurting others, we hurt ourselves.
We show brotherly kindness in kind deeds particularly in a time of need. We are taught by God to love one another, 1 Thessalonians 4:9. Jesus proved His love for us by dying for us; therefore, we ought to be willing to die for our brethren, 1 John 3:16. However, it is unlikely that our love will require the extreme sacrifice. Perhaps we will need to sacrifice some of our possessions to help our brethren, James 2:14-17. We might need to sacrifice our time to show concern for our brethren. In all things, we should not shut our hearts up to our brethren, 1 John 3:17.
If we do not have love for the brethren, we have no love for God, 1 John 3:10. If we do love our brethren, it is to be an “unfeigned” or genuine love, 1 Peter 1:22. And that love should be shown in brotherly kindness.