Saint Peter, the Apostle of our Lord, counsels us to have unity of mind as the Body of Christ. This does not mean that we always agree on absolutely everything. Perhaps one person thinks we should have carpeting, and another thinks hard wood floors. That does not break the unity of Christ. But by holding different and diverse doctrines from one another, we break the unity.
This is most serious. Our unity in the Word of Christ is a most precious treasure. We must hold onto it with all our strength and never surrender it.
We may think that it is impossible to have true unity, because surely no congregation can think and believe all the same things about the Word of God. But that is to ignore the power of the Word and of the Spirit who works in and with it. He can do it. Let us not resist His work, and rather work together with Him and one another for unity.
Unity is aided and defended by sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. When we feel compassion for our brothers and sisters, we act like Christ, whose heart went out to all in trouble and need. If we should feel sympathy even for strangers, how much more should we do the same for fellow believers, who are bound together with us in the faith.
Brotherly love is sometimes lacking. It should not be so among us, but sadly has been and will again. Let us fight to retain the love we should have for one another, and repent when we fall short. We should treat each other not merely as acquaintances or coworkers. We should be family, with one Father, one Brother, and one Spirit.
Then tender hearts and humble minds will surely follow along. If we are dedicated to loving our brother as our equal, then how could we be puffed up as his superior? We will be moved to kindness and acts of mercy toward one another.
We sometimes do very well in these areas. Sometimes we fail because of our dual nature as sinner and saint. Yet we know that the Spirit continues to work, and we should work as hard as we can under His urging.
Thus we turn away from evil and do good. The evil we must avoid may be on the tongue. It may not feel like evil when we speak it. When lips speak deceit, often the speaker is not aware. So we should be concerned about what is true, and whether we can prove it. This calls for rigorous thinking and investigation.
Likewise with false doctrine. We are probably not aware if we speak something against Scripture. We likely think that it is perfectly true and makes sense. We need careful study of the Word to know what is true and false. We need careful thinking, not merely strong emotions telling us we are right.
When we trust our feelings and let our mouth run ahead of the truth, then we disrupt unity and peace. False doctrine attacks the Body. So we need wisdom and knowledge to guide our lips. This wisdom and knowledge only come from the Spirit. Therefore we pray fervently that He may guide and control our tongue, the most dangerous organ and hardest to discipline.
May He so help us, that unity may thrive here.
And now for a good use of the tongue mentioned by Saint Peter. You should always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks for a reason for the hope that is in you.
Again, readiness requires knowledge and clear thought. Muddled thoughts dominated by emotions do not serve our witness of Christ. Instead we need diligent study of the Word of God. That includes listening to the teaching of the minister that God has provided.
The lazy old Adam wants to put as little effort into the faith that it can get away with. As far as salvation goes, we indeed put zero effort into receiving life. But in our Christian walk, how could we ever put in too much effort? Our work helps our neighbor. Giving a defense for the faith is no exception, since our neighbor who hears and may believe receives an ultimate and infinite benefit.
So we should always be ready. We do not know when God may present us with an opportunity. If we are ready, then when the opportunity comes we will be ready to use it. Probably we will not take every possible opportunity, but surely we will use some. Otherwise, what kind of readiness never does what it is ready to do? That is only an empty and posturing knowledge for knowledge’s sake. But true readiness responds and gives a good answer. Instead of taking the time to worry and convince ourselves not to answer, we simply answer.
Our hope about which we should speak is a wonderful thing. How could we not love to speak about what God has done for us? Our hope is in Christ, the holy One. He was zealous for all good things. He spoke the absolute truth, and no deceit was found on His lips. He served His neighbor with compassion. Even when called upon to suffer for righteousness’ sake, He did not allow Himself to return evil for evil. He did not retaliate, even though He had a perfect right to do so. But on the contrary, He blessed. He made His entire life into a blessing so that all who believe in Him receive eternal benefits.
Christ had a right to be proud and self-serving. But instead He was humble and lowly. He lived and acted in solidarity with mankind, even though all men were sinful and He was not. He saw them as His brothers and sisters. He felt sympathy for them, to feel with them their hurts and sorrows and struggles. He did not claim any privilege to skip over the difficult parts of life. Instead He suffered more than the rest.
In this way, Christ the Lord was seeking peace and pursuing it. He counted no cost too much as He went up even to the Cross. Thus He paid the reconciliation price between God and sinful humanity. He erased the offense that we had caused by rebelling against our Father. Now nothing stands between us and unity with God. Indeed, that is what we have in Christ Jesus.
Our peace in Christ is now absolutely perfect and eternal. He smiles upon us as His dear children. He has opened the doors of His presence to us, and we will spend eternity in the new heaven and the new earth. He will erase all the effects of sin that our disunity with Him caused. Instead, we will live in harmony and friendship with our God, forever and ever.
These are things worth talking about. This is a hope worth defending. What would we not sacrifice for a chance to speak just a few of these words to our neighbor who needs to hear them?
Our holy Lord guide and direct us to do so by His Spirit. Amen.
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