And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. 2 Peter 1:5-9
I used to think the phrase in verse 9, “and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins,” meant that the person forgot he or she was saved, that the person forgot he or she was a Christian. However, recent events have opened my eyes to what I believe is the correct meaning of that phrase.
Notice that the one who forgets is also the one who lacks the things mentioned in the previous verses. The things lacking are charity, brotherly kindness, godliness, patience, temperance, and knowledge. A Christian lacking charity and brotherly kindness is one who mistreats others – even other Christians. This Christian thinks himself or herself to be better than the one he or she is mistreating. In other words, this Christian has forgotten that he or she is guilty of the same sins and needed to be saved just as the one being mistreated did.
A natural behavior of one who thinks too highly of himself or herself is to mistreat others who he or she feels are worse. If only those others were as good as him or her would those others be worthy of charity and brotherly kindness.
This Christian also cannot see afar off – or in other words, he or she cannot see the forest for the trees. He or she cannot step back and see how he or she is lacking these things because of being too close to the situation. He or she will deny anything is wrong with himself or herself because the problem cannot be seen up close. He or she will refuse to hear anyone who tries to open his or her eyes.
How does a Christian get into a position like this? Quite simply, it is because the gospel has been forgotten. Maybe it hasn’t been forgotten in the area of trying to reach the lost, but it most certainly has been forgotten in the area of reminding the Christian from where he or she was delivered. When we reduce the gospel to a formula whereby we initiate new members to the “club,” we do great harm to ourselves because the gospel is the power of God unto us which are saved. When we no longer remember that the gospel is the power behind our good works, we think we are the power. And then our pride grows to the point of forgetting we were/are wretches, and then we look down on others.
Let us not forget the gospel. We need to preach it to ourselves daily. It is the power of God in our lives. When we begin to grasp the gospel for what it is, we will add brotherly kindness and charity. We will begin to love others. We will begin to treat others as we want to be treated. We will begin to show grace to all that we meet.