Having the Right Attitude
… all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; (3:8b)
Everything begins with the right attitude. Five spiritual virtues constitute this God-honoring perspective.
First, believers are to be harmonious. The compound word rendered harmonious (homophrones) literally means “same think.” Believers are to live in harmony together, maintaining a common commitment to the truth that produces an inward unity of heart with one another (cf. Rom. 12:5, 16; 1 Cor. 10:17; 12:12; Gal. 3:28; Phil. 2:1–5). They must not be in conflict with each other, even under severe persecution:
Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; in no way alarmed by your opponents—which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God. (Phil. 1:27–28)
Jesus instructed the disciples, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34–35). In His high priestly prayer, Jesus prayed earnestly for the spiritual unity of all believers (John 17:20–23), which prayer was answered. Believers are all one in Christ (Eph. 4:4–6; cf. 1 Cor. 6:17; 8:6). This spiritual reality should be the basis for the church’s visible harmony. The early church was a model of visible oneness (Acts 2:42–47).
Sympathetic, the second factor in experiencing the fullness of Christian life, is virtually a transliteration of sumpatheis, which means “sharing the same feeling.” Christians are to be united on the truth, but also ready to sympathize with the pain of others, even of those they do not know (cf. Matt. 25:34–40; Heb. 13:3; James 1:27). Like Christ, the sympathetic high priest (Heb. 4:15), they must share in the feelings of others, in their sorrows as well as their joys (Rom. 12:15; 1 Cor. 12:26; 2 Cor. 2:3; Col. 3:12; cf. John 11:35; James 5:11). Believers must not be insensitive, indifferent, and censorious, even toward the lost in their pain of struggling anxiously with the issues of life (cf. Matt. 9:36; Luke 13:34–35; 19:41). Saints must come alongside them with empathy to declare God’s saving truth (cf. Acts 8:26–37).
Third, Peter used the term philadelphoi, translated here as brotherly. The first part of the word stems from the verb phileō, “to love,” and refers to affection among people who are closely related in some way. Those who demonstrate that affection will do so by unselfish service for one another (Acts 20:35; Rom. 14:19; 15:2; 2 Cor. 11:9; Phil. 4:14–16; 1 Thess. 5:11, 14; 3 John 6). Such service begins in the church among believers and extends out to the world.
Kindhearted translates eusplagchnoi, the root of which refers to one’s internal organs and is sometimes translated “bowels” or “intestines” (e.g., Acts 1:18). Affections and emotions have a visceral impact, hence this word signifies a powerful kind of feeling (Eph. 4:32; cf. 2 Cor. 7:15; 1 Thess. 2:8). Much like sympathetic, the expression calls for being so affected by the pain of others as to feel it deeply, following the kind of tenderhearted compassion God, through His Son, has for sinners (cf. Matt. 23:37; Luke 13:34; 19:41–42; John 11:35).
The final factor in Peter’s list for enjoying the goodness of the Christian life, humble in spirit, is actually one word in the Greek, tapeinophrones (“humble-minded”). Humility is arguably the most essential, all-encompassing virtue of the Christian life (5:5; Matt. 5:3; 18:4; Luke 14:11; 18:14; Eph. 4:1–2; Col. 3:12; James 4:6; cf. Ps. 34:2; Prov. 3:34; 15:33; 22:4). Paul used a form of this Greek word in Philippians 2:3, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves.” Years earlier Jesus demonstrated the importance of His own example of humility when He said, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matt. 11:29; cf. Phil. 2:5–8).
The joys of their lives in Christ are maximized when believers are united in truth and life with one another, peaceful in disposition, gracious toward those who need the gospel, sensitive to the pains of fallen sinners, sacrificial in loving service to all, compassionate instead of harsh, and above all humble like their Savior.
8 Peter signals the conclusion of the household code admonitions with “finally, all of you.” The concluding exhortation is addressed to everyone in the community. What applies specifically to individual groups regarding respect and harmony applies to the community. The Christian ethic will exhibit unity, sympathy, brotherly affection, compassion, humility, and nonretaliation. Together these six qualities possess a corporate character that will strengthen the Christian community’s witness to society.
To be of the same mind (homophrōn, GK 3939; NIV, “live in harmony with”) is to be on guard against divisions that would hinder Christian unity. Because of the imperative of unity as witness to the world, Jesus prays, on the eve of his crucifixion, for his disciples to realize a degree of unity that he and the Father have shared in eternity (Jn 17:1–5). Jesus’ prayer is “that all of them may be one … so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (Jn 17:21). The accent on Christian unity is found throughout the NT (e.g., Ac 4:32; Ro 12:4–5, 16; 1 Co 1:2, 10; 3:5–9, 21–23; 10:17; 12:4–7, 12–13; 2 Co 13:11; Eph 4:4–6; Php 1:27; 2:2; 4:2). Unity does not require uniformity; being of the same mind is not predicated on simple agreement with others. It is, however, founded on a common Lord, a common confession, and a common goal of witness to the world. No Christian can live the Christian life in isolation, but only as he or she is joined, with one mind, to other members of God’s church, living stones that together comprise one building. The church is not church if there is no inherent, manifested unity. If the readers are encountering hostility from society around them, Christian unity is no luxury; it is critical for survival.
A related attitude is that of being sympathetic (sympatheis, GK 5218). It is the essential nature of the human body to be “sympathetic” (cf. 1 Co 12:26), to which Peter calls his readers. Sympathy, as Barclay, 227, reminds us, is the opposite of self-absorption, the ability to identify with the sufferings and pains of others. To share in the sufferings of others is both the cause and effect of Christian unity. The believers’ model once again is Christ, the high priest, who sympathizes with [sympathēsai] our weaknesses (Heb 4:15). Significantly, sympathy is not merely a Christian virtue; it was also held in high esteem by Hellenistic moralists (e.g., Plutarch, Mor. 432; Strabo, Geogr. 6.3.3). Like unity, sympathy strengthens Christians in the world.
Furthermore, being “affectionate” (NIV, “love as brothers”; philadelphos, GK 5789), “compassionate” (eusplanchnos, GK 2359), and “humble” (tapeinophrones, GK 5426) all stand in direct relation to sympathy and Christian unity. Moreover, all are vital to the community’s survival in a hostile environment. Brotherly affection is also included in the catalog of virtues appearing in 1 Peter 1:5–7, where it is related to—though distinct from—love (agapē, GK 27). While the distinction should not be pressed too far, the former is a virtue valued by pagans, appearing frequently in Stoic virtue lists, for example. A practical test in any cultural context is whether the Christian will love his fellow human. Moreover, a hearty affection for one’s brothers and sisters in the community will attest to the vibrancy of the community’s faith. Philadelphia has a notably social trajectory.
The word rendered “compassionate,” eusplanchnos, vividly conveys feeling and emotion. Deriving from splanchna (GK 5073), one’s inner organs, the term by extension conveys deep, intense emotion. Its only other NT occurrence is in Ephesians 4:32, contextualized in Pauline admonitions toward tenderheartedness, though the verb form is found in the Synoptic Gospels, notably in depicting the Good Samaritan (Lk 10:33), who “took pity,” and the father of the prodigal (Lk 15:20), who on seeing his son returning home “was filled with compassion.” And it finds its fullest expression in Jesus himself (Mk 1:41), who is said by the evangelist, when approached by a leper, to have been “filled with compassion.”
Among secular Hellenistic moralists, to be “humble” was not considered a virtue, given the primacy of self-sufficiency (autarkeia, GK 894). Hence it is a peculiarly Christian ethical distinctive. The Christian ethic reorients and transforms one’s outlook. Humility springs in part from an awareness of our creatureliness and thus of our utter dependence on the Creator. But this contrast is not intended to be demeaning, provided that the creature draws on divine provision (i.e., grace). Humility that acknowledges and appropriates grace is a humility that does not humiliate; rather, it is buoyed by gratitude (cf. 1:6–9, 18–21) and results in attitudes and actions that are active rather than passive.
8 Using an unusual expression for “finally,” which means something like “in summary” (the idiom appears in 1 Tim. 1:5 as well), Peter encapsulates his summary in five imperatival adjectives arranged artfully with philadelphoi, the love of those in the Christian community, in the center. The first and last adjectives speak of how one thinks, the second and fourth of how one feels. The first two terms, “united in spirit” and “sympathetic,” are unique in biblical literature, but common in Greek ethical discussion. Yet while the words are unique, the ideas are well known in the NT. As Paul repeatedly argues (Rom. 15:5; 2 Cor. 13:11; Gal. 5:10; Phil. 2:2; 4:2), unity in heart and mind is critical for the Christian community. This is not the unity that comes from a standard imposed from without, such as a doctrinal statement, but that which comes from loving dialogue and especially a common focus on the one Lord. It is his mind and spirit that Christians are to share (1 Cor. 2:16; Phil. 2:5–11), and therefore have access to a unity that they are to experience. Because humility was the mark of Jesus (Matt. 11:29; Phil. 2:8), this unity will revolve around being “humble” (Eph. 4:2; Phil. 2:3; Col. 3:12; 1 Pet. 5:5). This does not mean a poor self-concept (“I’m no good”), but a willingness to take the lower place, to do the less exalted service, and to put the interests of others ahead of one’s own interests. This attitude of Jesus is surely a necessity if a disparate group is to be “united in spirit.”
To have unity one must “rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15 RSV) and thus be “sympathetic” (i.e., enter into and experience the feelings of another). This is precisely what Christ does for us, for he has had similar experiences (Heb. 4:15, which uses a verb closely related to this adjective), and it is what we can do for other suffering Christians (Heb. 10:34). This term has a practical bent, for because we understand the feelings of another we act appropriately to assist our fellow-Christian. On the other hand, “compassionate,” used also by Paul (Eph. 4:32; cf. the related noun in 2 Cor. 7:15; Phil. 1:8; 2:1; Col. 3:12; Philem. 12; 1 John 3:17, and the verb used exclusively for Jesus, Mark 1:41; 6:34; 8:2; 9:22), shows that a Christian’s caring is not to be simply because he or she understands what another feels. Instead, Christians care deeply about fellow-Christians so that the suffering of one becomes the suffering of the other. Christians are to be emotionally involved with each other.
These virtues can be summed up in “loving your brothers and sisters,” a single Greek term found in its nominal form in Rom. 12:10; 1 Thess. 4:9; Heb. 13:1; 1 Pet. 1:22 (cf. the comment on this verse); 2 Pet. 1:7. Jesus commanded Christians to love one another—this was the mark by which a person could recognize a Christian (John 13:34–35). It is no wonder, then, that the virtue appears so commonly in Christian teaching and that Peter puts it in the center of his virtue catalogue.
Three of these terms are used in the Greek OT and are also paralleled in the Dead Sea Scrolls; for example, in the Rule of the Community (1QS 4:3ff.) the sons of light have “a spirit of humility, patience, abundant charity, unending goodness … great charity towards all the sons of truth.” But the NT puts them in a new context, that of Christ, who embodies them all and enables them all.
3:8 / Finally (not to end the letter but to complete this passage) there comes a general exhortation to the whole Christian community, married and unmarried alike. Peter commends a set of attitudes which together depict what relationships within the Christian fellowship should be.
Christian believers must live in harmony with one another, literally, “being of one mind” (a single word in the Greek). The term is intended to convey a unity of aim and purpose, a oneness in attitude. Idealistic? But this was the actuality at the very beginning of the Christian church, rejoicing in the glow of the early days of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost when “believers were together and had everything in common” (Acts 4:32). On a purely practical level, unity among Christians was in any case highly necessary in the hostile environment in which they were living.
They must be sympathetic, sharing one another’s feeling. Believers’ hearts should go out to one another in love, during times of joy as well as sorrow (Rom. 12:15). The truly sympathetic attitude is the antithesis of selfishness.
They must love each other as brothers and sisters (1:22), for in truth they all belong to the one family of God in Christ. They are to treat one another (and both male and female are included under brothers) as having an equal standing in the sight of God—a notion that challenges the competitive nature of so much in the modern Western world. Such a sensitiveness to the feelings of other Christians will follow from a growing appreciation of belonging to the one body of believers (1 Cor. 12:26). Peter is simply relaying the teaching of Jesus that he heard in the Upper Room: “By this all … will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35). The vertical relationship, God’s love for men and women in Christ, creates a horizontal relationship, the love between those who know themselves to be the objects of divine love (Cranfield, p. 76).
They must be compassionate, tenderhearted, caring deeply for one another—a powerful and rich term in the Greek for which there is no adequate English translation. All the emotions are involved.
They must be humble toward one another. The idea of humility as a desirable characteristic is promoted in the nt as a virtue of Christlike living (Gal. 5:23; Eph. 4:2; Phil. 2:3) and follows the teaching of Jesus himself (Matt. 11:29). To the Hellenistic world such a notion came as a startling novelty, for Greeks had always considered humility as a sign of weakness. Yet in truth, as the believer grows in the Christian life, there come constant reminders that an attitude of humility is entirely appropriate. Human abilities and wisdom all too often prove to be insufficient to cope with life’s ordinary experiences and relationships, let alone when the Christian is faced with the standard of perfection set by Jesus in both his teaching and example (Matt. 5:48; John 8:46). Peter will repeat the admonition to be humble later when he addresses young men in particular (5:5).
8. General summary of relative duty, after having detailed particular duties from 1 Pe 2:18.
of one mind—as to the faith.
having compassion one of another—Greek, “sympathizing” in the joy and sorrow of others.
love as brethren—Greek, “loving the brethren.”
pitiful—towards the afflicted.
courteous—genuine Christian politeness; not the tinsel of the world’s politeness; stamped with unfeigned love on one side, and humility on the other. But the oldest manuscripts read, “humble-minded.” It is slightly different from “humble,” in that it marks a conscious effort to be truly humble.
Ver. 8.—Finally. St. Peter is bringing to a close the exhortations to submission, which depend on the imperative in ch. 2:13. He turns from particular classes and relations to the whole Christian community, and describes what they ought to be in five Greek words, the first three of which are found nowhere else in the Greek Scriptures. Be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another; literally, sympathizing; feeling with others, rejoicing with them that do rejoice, and weeping with them that weep. Love as brethren. An adjective (φιλάδελφοι) in the Greek; the corresponding substantive occurs in ch. 1:22. Be pitiful. This word (εὔσπλαγχνος) has undergone a remarkable change of meaning. In Hippocrates, quoted by Huther, it is used literally of one whose viscera are healthy; it is also sometimes used figuratively, as equivalent to εὐκάρδιος, ἀνδρεῖος; “goodhearted” with the heathen would mean “brave;” with Christian writers “tender,” “pitiful.” Be courteous. This represents a reading (φιλόφρονες) which has very little support. The true reading is,ταπεινόφρονες, humble-minded.
Here is Peter’s conclusion to the topic submission, which he introduced in 2:13. In this conclusion he delineates how Christians ought to live; therefore, he gives them a pattern for Christian conduct.
Notice that at both the beginning and the conclusion of this topic Peter addresses all the readers. To leave no doubt that he is bringing this particular discussion to a close, he writes,
8. Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.
Peter’s concluding exhortations are for all the recipients of his letter. Thus he admonishes everyone to follow his instructions. In this verse, Peter writes five admonitions that, when heeded, present “an ideal portrait of the church.”
- “Live in harmony with one another.” In the Greek, the text has the reading [be] like-minded. Does Peter mean that all Christians have to think in the same manner? No, not quite. Paul focuses attention on the same question in his letter to the Philippians: “And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you” (3:15). In view of the variety of gifts and talents God has given his people, differences of opinion exist. Peter, however, wants Christians to be governed by the mind of Christ, so that differences do not divide but rather enrich the church. Therefore, he exhorts the believers to “live in harmony with one another” (compare Rom. 12:16; 15:5; Phil. 2:2).
- “Be sympathetic.” Christians should demonstrate their concern for and interest in their neighbor, especially in times of joy or sorrow. They are to “rejoice with those who rejoice; [and] mourn with those who mourn” (Rom. 12:15; also see 1 Cor. 12:26).
- “Love as brothers.” Peter repeats what he has already written, for already in his first chapter he observes that the readers “have sincere love for [the] brothers” (v. 22). The Greek term Peter uses is general, so it includes both brothers and sisters in God’s household (refer to Rom. 12:10; 1 Thess. 4:9–10; Heb. 13:1).
- “Be compassionate.” In the Greek, the word translated “compassionate” is far more descriptive. It depicts feelings that appear to come from our inner parts (literally, our intestines), especially when we observe the suffering which another person endures. Translators usually associate the Greek word with the heart and thus render it “tenderhearted.” The term compassion is one that appears in a list of Christian virtues (Col. 3:12).
- “[Be] humble.” Humility is a virtue Jesus taught when he washed the feet of his disciples (John 13:4–17). Jesus set the example of selfless service by his willingness to be the least in the company of his disciples and to be the servant of all. In the fifth chapter of his epistle, Peter repeats his admonition to be humble when he addresses young men: “Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another” (5:5; also see Eph. 4:2; Phil. 2:6–8).
These virtues reflect the glory of the church when brothers and sisters live harmoniously. Spiritual brothers and sisters exemplify these virtues when together they acknowledge God as their Father and know Christ as their brother (Heb. 2:11). Then, as the body of Christ, believers indeed experience God’s marvelous blessings.
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2004). 1 Peter (pp. 187–189). Chicago: Moody Publishers.
 Charles, D. J. (2006). 1 Peter. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, pp. 330–331). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
 Davids, P. H. (1990). The First Epistle of Peter (pp. 124–125). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
 Hillyer, N. (2011). 1 and 2 Peter, Jude (pp. 100–101). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
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 Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Epistles of Peter and the Epistle of Jude (Vol. 16, pp. 126–128). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.