…you must make every effort to support your faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with endurance, and endurance with godliness, 7 and godliness with mutual affection, and mutual affection with love. 8 for if these things are yours and are increasing among you, they keep you from being ineffective and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:5-8)
We’ve seen in different ways through Paul and James the expectation that belief and/or faith will not stand alone, but will be lived out in life. Peter here spells out the need to work for what Paul expected – that the sign of living faith will be broad growth in character.Where Paul wrote of how one aspect of Christ-like character will lead to another, Peter writes of how we are to work to support one with another. God’s gifts and our work don’t contradict each other but go together – we receive all these things as God’s gracious gifts, but at the same time we are to work at them; not seeing each in isolation but working at them together as one whole picture of becoming more like Jesus.
There’s one detail it would be easy to miss. Even in English translations, where we don’t have singular and plural versions of ‘you’, there’s a hint in verse 8. Peter doesn’t speak about ‘these things’ growing ‘in’ but ‘among’ us. This isn’t just about individual Christians growing in holy isolation. It’s about groups of Christians encouraging one another to become more good, deeper in knowledge, stronger in self-control and endurance, more godly, friendly and loving.
Christianity isn’t a solo pursuit. It’s a team effort. And those encouraging groups of Christians are called ‘churches’. Maybe we ought to ask ourselves how far our own church is helping us and others to become more Christlike. But if we’re going to do that, then I’m sure that there has to be a second question; what can I do to make it more so?