i had a surreal experience a couple of years ago on a sunday morning when i looked out on our congregation and spotted my cousin, mark. although i had not seen mark since we were kids, i heard that he had gotten deeply involved with drugs and spent time in prison on drug-related charges. a burly guy sporting a dark fu-manchu and tattoos from the neck down, mark explained that he had decided to leave california, kick meth, and start over in oklahoma. mark and his girlfriend bought a house, got jobs, and started attending our fellowship. they had their ups-n-downs, but they seemed to be doing well.
on the sunday before christmas, mark put a gun to his head and took his own life.
mark had issues, but no one saw this coming. i have been haunted with questions, like “why didn’t i see the signs,” and “how come i didn’t call and encourage him.” i also posed a few challenging questions to my church family, such as, “why didn’t mark call one of us,” and “might things have turned out differently if we truly practiced philippians 2:4 and galatians 6:2?”
the most enlightening part of my study of peter’s seven virtues (2 peter 1:3-9) was that brotherly kindness is necessary for spiritual maturity (i wish i could stop, shake you by the lapels, and get you to hear what i just said). we’re totally on board with the first few virtues (goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness) as being foundational building blocks for discipleship. but if godliness is a vital element in the process of spiritual maturity, then, according to peter, brotherly kindness is just as vital.
the point is, we cannot become christlike without brotherly kindness. we will never grow into maturity until we learn to care for each other. it is impossible to take our bibles into a solitary place and become a disciple–no matter how sincere or pious or disciplined we might be. we need each other and we’re kidding ourselves if we think we can make it on our own.
consider this: is there currently a mark in your life?