To Sum It Up

16 Jul

You can catch the podcast here.

Last week we looked at one of the most unpopular topics in the Bible today, but hopefully, we understand it better in the context of Christian living. Peter provides one last instruction in Chapter 3 that seems to pull all of his previous instructions together.

Take a look at 1 Peter 3:8-12.

Peter’s final instruction of encouragement. Peter is now speaking to “all of you.” Citizens of a land. Bond men and free men. Slaves and masters. Husbands and wives. His final instruction regards those relations that he has already mentioned. These are the Christians qualities that identify us as authentic Christians.

All of us are to be harmonious. The word literally means of one mind. Seek after the same thing for each other; what you regard or seek for yourself, seek also for your brothers. Don’t have divided interests; don’t pursue different goals; do not indulge counter plans and purposes; and don’t seek honors or offices for yourself that you don’t seek for your brothers. The whole idea is that you and other Christians are to be like-minded. Unfortunately, that seems to be lacking in Christianity today. Just because someone calls himself a Christian offers no guarantee of anything. You can’t assume that other Christians have the same goals or values you do. Remember that Peter is telling us how to get along with everyone. As you talk with other Christians, you’ll encounter some that are comfortable where they are spiritually. They probably wouldn’t say they’ve arrived, but they’re satisfied. May we always hunger and thirst after a closer walk with Christ

Be sympathetic. This is the only place in the New Testament where this word is used. It describes that state of mind that exists when we enter into the feelings of others as if they were our own. When one part of the body is affected, all members of the body are affected as if they were one. Remember Paul’s words to the Romans, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another.” (Rom. 12:15-16a) The church is supposed to be one; it has one interest; and there should be common sympathy in its joys and sorrows. You show your attachment to other Christians by weeping when they weep and rejoicing when they rejoice. Have you ever been jealous when a friend gets a new car or other item that you can’t have? That’s not the idea Paul or Peter is trying to express here. When someone is hurting or suffering, we should be right there with them, no matter the circumstances. If someone has something to rejoice over, we should rejoice with them. 1 Cor. 12:26 reminds us, “And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it.”

We are also to be brotherly. This is from the Greek word philadelphos where the city of Philadelphia gets its name from. Heb. 13:1 says to, “Let brotherly love continue.”  In John 13:34 Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” This is the type of love that is supposed to exist between family members, like the love between parents and their children. This is how we are to love one another.  Remember, that’s what’s supposed to set us apart from other people. “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35) Be kindhearted. The word literally means pitiful or tenderhearted. Be humble in spirit. Remember the saying, “It’s hard to be humble when you’re as great as I am.” Christianity produces true courteousness and politeness. Christianity doesn’t make someone rough or rude, it actually should turn that kind of demeanor around. These are the qualities that Peter instructs us to have, and these qualities will be manifested by our behavior.

Peter provides one final instruction on behavior. He has just completed a list of attributes to demonstrate; now he gives us a simple, but difficult command. Verse 9 says, “not returning evil for evil or insult for insult.” This instruction is so contrary to our own instincts. When we are hurt or attacked or insulted, our first reaction is to lash out in the same manner as we are attacked. This is not the way we are to be. Remember we are new creations in Christ; we don’t hold to the way we used to be. Christ has set us free from sin so we can walk like Him. Take a look at what Paul writes in Rom. 12:17-21. This passage provides some of the most difficult, unnatural demonstrations of behavior that can only come through the power of the Holy Spirit. We are instructed to sit back and let the love of Christ empower us to do what is not normal. Matt. 5:44 says, “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Luke 6:28 says, “Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” The only way we are able to treat others in this manner is to allow the Holy Spirit to work in us and through us. Not only are we not to treat people the way they treat us, but we are to, “give a blessing instead.” Unnatural behavior that should set us apart from the world and offer proof of our relationship with the Lord. The love of Christ that abounds in our hearts enables us to bless those that curse us. Peter goes on to say that, “You were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.” We have been called to be, “harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit.” These are the qualities that we, as Christians, should have. We know we are blessed, we have eternal life, we have the Lord to lead and guide us, we want His blessings, so we need to be ready to bless others. “You were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.” “Might inherit a blessing.” Might inherit is in the subjunctive mood. The subjunctive mood is the mood of possibility and potentiality. The action described may or may not occur, depending upon circumstances. The word blessing used here is the Greek word eulogia where we get our English word eulogy meaning a fine discourse, polished language. The word can also mean language artfully adapted to captivate the hearer: fair speaking, fine speeches. That’s why eulogies generally display someone in a positive light, no matter the life the person lived or the legacy they left behind.

These are the qualities that Peter instructs us to have, these qualities will be manifested by our behavior, and finally Peter’s big “if.” Peter quotes Ps. 34:12-16 in verses 10-12. The first big if. There is nothing wrong with wanting to live a long life.  We are here, after all, to accomplish the Lord’s work. If we want to live long and prosper each Christian, “Must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit.” Keep your mouth shut. It is possible or else Peter wouldn’t have told us to do it. Gossip, slander, lying, profanity, blasphemy – keep your tongue from evil and your mouth from speaking deceit. Listen to how James describes the tongue, “And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell.”  (Ja. 3:6) “Turn away from evil and do good.” This is the same word Peter used in the verse about speaking. We ought not to speak evil or participate in evil. “Seek peace and pursue it.” Leading a life that is calm and serene and having a peaceful spirit all contribute to a long and healthy life.

The last thing we’ll look at is in verse 12. God is the protector of the righteous. His eyes do see everything, but Peter gives us the idea that the Lord is in continual guardianship and care. “His ears attend to their prayer.”  He hears prayer. We have the authority to enter into the holy of holies where the Most High dwells. We can pour out hearts and our desires before him. “But the face of the lord is against those who do evil.” The general sentiment in these verses is that if a long life is desired, it is to be secured by virtue and religion, or at least that virtue and religion will contribute to it. This doesn’t mean that all who are righteous will enjoy a long life, but still there is a sense that a life of virtue and religion will contribute to a long life.

Peter provides a great summary statement in 3:8-9. These are his instructions to us. If we are diligent to follow them, at the very least the Lord will be honored and we will likely be blessed for our obedience. Obedience is the mark of authentic Christianity.

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