It has been a slow stroll through Peter’s first letter. In a day when fast seems to be the preferred pace, there are times when slow is better.
A fast food burger does make it easier to get back on the road or back to the office quicker but it cannot compete with the taste of that smoked all day, pulled pork barbecue. A pizza delivered in 30 minutes or less is great when it’s halftime, but can it really compare to sitting down in a restaurant and enjoying an evening out with that special one; an evening when you hope the meal comes slowly?
The point of this is rambling is simple: One can read through the New Testament book of First Peter in just a few minutes; but to savor the words and draw out the apostle’s meaning it takes a slow read with many stops to ponder the thoughts.
So we took our time and looked at what Peter had to say about a Christian’s relationship with government, i.e. authority. We then took up the topic and spent one thousand words looking into a Christian’s relationship with their employer. This was followed by how a married Christian should relate to their spouse. All these have one theme in common: demonstrating your relationship with Christ by how you live out your relationship with others.
Now we come to a point in 1 Peter when the apostle writes, “Finally…” Take a moment and read the following words from 1 Peter 3:8-9. In this passage Peter talks about how a believer must relate to all they come into contact with.
He writes, “Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.”
Now, that didn’t take long to read so let’s slowly walk back through the seven activities that should be played out in every Christian’s life every time they get up and start a new day.
Number One: be like-minded. In other words Christians must get along with other Christians. Like-minded comes from the Greek word from which we get our word harmony. Christians are to live in harmony with each other so those looking see unity. This is possible when the Church keeps her focus on Christ.
Number Two: be sympathetic. Christians are to feel the suffering of others and with that feeling respond with comfort and care.
Number Three: love one another. The word love here speaks of the love between brothers which is just a step below how God loves us. It is to treat each other as members of the same family should and not necessary how we sometimes do.
Number Four: be compassionate. This speaks of love in action. It carries the idea of being tenderhearted; literally “good heartedness” or “well hearted.”
Number Five: humble. This means to have a humble spirit or a modest opinion of one’s self. In the words of the Apostle Paul, “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” (Romans 12:3) Doing this keeps the believer putting others first and understanding their own need for Christ.
Number Six: do not repay evil with evil or insult for insult. Evil here describes a hurtful, harmful or bad natured activity. An insult refers to those times when someone rails against or reviles you. What did Jesus have to say about the Christian’s response to such attacks?
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.” (Matthew 5:38-40)
Number Seven: repay evil with blessing. When he write, “On the contrary” Peter is agreeing that this is the opposite of what the world says one should do. So what is the opposite of doing evil to a person who has done evil to you? Pray that God will bless them.
Imagine the response of the other person; they are trying to harm you and you are asking God to bless them. The word bless comes from a compound Greek word. When each part of the compound is translated it reads: good word, saying or speech.
Simply put, this is acting toward others as Jesus did during those hours just preceding His death on the cross.
Peter then reminds believers that this is what they are called to do. He also gives the promise of a blessing prepared for all who act in this way.
The apostle then quotes King David, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech. They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” (1 Peter 3:10-12; Psalm 34:12-16) At this point it might be good to be reminded that David wrote this psalm after feigning insanity because two powerful kings were looking to harm him, Saul and Abimelech.
In other words, David was practicing what he was preaching. As well, we are called to practice what he preached.
Relationships are tricky things. They are easily damaged or destroyed.
So God had Peter write Christians a letter concerning what He expected of His people regarding their day to day interactions with those around them. It may not be easy, but since God says Christians are to do these things He will also provide a way for His people complete the task.