“Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Therefore I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know them, and are established in the present truth. Yes, I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent, to stir you up by reminding you.” (2 Peter 1: 2 — 13)
In order to receive the promises Peter lists just before this passage, he states that we must develop these attributes and build up these characteristics.
There is certainly value in developing any of the mentioned traits as their innate goodness is indisputable. But, in order to adopt and develop these values and characteristics, we must develop them through effort and diligence in adding one upon the other of these important and good things into our lives. As all of the characteristics mentioned are in dwindling supply in our society presently, we likely won’t be hurt by seeking after and finally possessing them — our whole society is in need of embodying these things.
The apostle mentions diligence and I just mentioned it above. Diligence is a persevering application, that characteristic called by some in jest “stick-to-itiveness,” that which endures in the careful application of any task. It is with diligence, through careful application that these other traits are to be mastered.
And so as mentioned first, we are to diligently add to the good characteristics we may already possess, virtue.
According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, virtue is conformity to a standard of right or morality: a particular moral excellence. Virtue (I think) is the personal force of the living gospel of Christ, supposing that we are paying attention to it. Note that this implies that there is indeed a standard to uphold.
To virtue we are to add knowledge.
Knowledge is defined as familiarity gained through experience or association or an acquaintance, with or understanding of a science, art, or technique. There is no reason to think that this is referring to just any sort of knowledge or of knowledge in general, for as far as I know, God does not care how many facts about Hollywood you or I may learn, or how many things we can recite of daily events, of science, or about music. I suspect that is not the knowledge preferred here. It should also be noted that the implication here, is that the knowledge listed, that knowledge of God’s word, is not given in some form unknown, or out of a mysterious cloud from the Holy Spirit that overtakes us and imparts it to us — but, it states that we must through diligent application seek to add this knowledge into our own lives. It is a work of our own will and devices to do so, and it is not accomplished through some heavenly spiritual importing.
Temperance is the next attribute that must be added.
Temperance is defined in the dictionary as moderation in action, thought, or feeling: restraint (what a big word that is): habitual moderation in the indulgence of the appetites or passions. This deals with the subjection of our own desires to the will of God as it is found in his Word. While it is not referring specifically to temperance in relation to alcohol and other dependance forming drugs, as was widely taught in other generations, if that is a difficulty it certainly would be a useful starting point. It is addressing restraint in general – immoderate activities and actions. Unfortunately, some folks lack any restraint and could benefit from a dedicated slowdown.
Following temperance, we should add patience.
Patience is defined as bearing pains or trials calmly or without complaint, and manifesting forbearance under provocation or strain. It is the characteristic that is not hasty or impetuous, and which is steadfast despite opposition, difficulty, or adversity. It is that something within us that helps us to be able or willing to bear up under adversity or difficulty in the things surrounding us, and all of this is to be accomplished without us losing our sense of reason. Readers, friends and neighbors, brothers and sisters, if this so far seems easily mastered, then once again I salute you, for you are stronger and better than I am.
The next trait to be gained is godliness.
Godliness is defined as being pious and devout, being God like; embodying the same characteristics that God embodies. Acquiring this trait is surely a lengthy and arduous task for most as it is so easy to not act godly in our dealings, and it requires us to be alert and strong of character before we can even apply this one.
The next characteristic is brotherly kindness or brotherly love.
In this we are to be disposed to aid and give to one another, to be hospitable, and to willingly carry the other’s burdens as needed. This is followed by charity or love (as it is stated in some of the versions). This term is so widely misunderstood as to require some constant reminder of its true meaning. The dictionary defines charity as “benevolent goodwill toward or love of humanity: generosity and helpfulness especially toward the needy or suffering; also the aid given to those in need.”
W. E. Vine defined the term translated by the English word love in this usage in scripture as — “Christian love, whether exercised toward the brethren or toward men generally, is not an impulse from feelings, it does not always run with natural inclinations, nor does it spend itself only upon those for whom some affinity is discovered. Love seeks the welfare of all, (Rom. 15: 2), and works no ill to any, (13: 8-10); love seeks opportunity to do good to ‘all men, and especially toward them that are of the household of the faith, (Gal. 6:10.).’”
Therefore, love as it is defined in the word of God has nothing at all to do with our emotional states. It has to do with taking care of the needs of others. It is the unsolicited intentional giving of care and sustenance to another person without any thought given to repayment or restitution. That is exactly how Jesus acted, isn’t it?
I personally believe the best definition of this notion is found in Philippians 2 and verses 3 and 4: “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”