to sum up, let all be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kind-hearted and humble in spirit” 1 Peter 3:8 NASB
Kind-hearted – eusplanchnoi in Greek. Wow! Don’t even try to say this word. The prefix eu means “well” or “good” (you remember eulogize?). But “good” what? The second part of the word (splanchnon) means “intestine” or in ancient languages, “bowel.” We might conclude that this word is talking about good digestion. But we need to look at the cultural setting to see what the real meaning is. The proper translation must capture the meaning of an idiom. The ancient Greeks saw this word as an expression of pleasant feelings toward someone. If you think about it, you can see why they used this particular word. We have an idiom like this when we say that a particular person makes me feel good inside. What we mean is that we feel kindness and empathy toward that person. But we express this idea in terms of our own inner makeup.
Consider the opposite feelings. Have you ever been around someone who makes you feel sick inside? Have you ever thought, “This person is upsetting my stomach”? I remember an encounter years ago when the conversation was so vicious that I literally got sick. As the other person reprimanded me, I suddenly felt a hot flash, got dizzy and felt ill. My mental discomfort had a direct effect on my physical condition. His words made me physically sick.
Peter certainly knew about this feeling. I can only imagine how ill he must have felt after he denied Jesus. Now he writes to his Christian family and tells them, “Make each other feel good inside.” Kindness is one of God’s most powerful medicines. I had an experience today of just how far I am from practicing this all the time. My wife baked a pie. She is a great cook, but this one just didn’t taste right. The flour she used was bad. When we were with some friends later, I told them about the “bad” pie. That remark was not kind-hearted. My words did not make my wife feel good inside. How much better if I had complimented her on the wonderful cooking she does every day rather than focus on the one problem that wasn’t even her fault. I have a long way to go before “kind-hearted” describes all my words. When my actions make someone else feel bad, I feel bad too. I should have listened to Peter. Be eusplanchnoi. Make someone feel good inside. Don’t give them a stomach ache today.
Peter’s remark reminds me of my mother who used to say, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” I resisted that advice, complaining that the truth was more important than protecting someone’s feelings. Now I’m not so sure. Our ability to hear and accept the truth is often determined not by the accuracy of the statement but by the kindness with which it is given. We don’t diminish the truth by making it good to taste, but we will certainly drive people away from the truth if we serve it up on a plate of bad feelings.
Topical Index: eusplanchnoi, kind-hearted, feelings, truth, 1 Peter 3:8