Peter has spent the first two chapters and into this third chapter giving the principles of submission to authority, now he gets to this section and gives us practical applications. Have you ever been confronted by someone where they say “that is so not Christ like!”. Do we fully know what that represents? Or is intended to say? In this section he gives us five instructions for how we should act in community. These are characteristics that we can still use now and we would be much better men if we put them into practice.
To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; – 1 Peter 3:8 NASB
When it is studied how people pick churches, it turns out that most people do not decide based on theology or doctrine but that of their comfort with the congregations social, economic and political climate. Peter provides this explanation because he believed passionately that it was very important to have great church community.
Harmonious[like-minded,unity of mind]
Peter begins by stated that it is important to be like-minded, or of one mind. There are many times when people discuss church communities and believe that the only biblical standard is when they have everything in common (Acts 2:44). Even the apostles did not have everything in common, there were fisherman among tax collectors, they were their own melting pot.
Peter indicates we should all be in one mind, but this does not mean that the we are to set aside our own perceptions and viewpoints and slavishly embrace everything that everyone else in the community group believes.
If everybody had everything in common and no personal view or thoughts, then it is more of a cult than a community group. As we say here many times, “none of us is better than all of us”. That statement means that the unique and wonderful character provides more intellect and capabilities to share with each other than if we had to do everything on our own. We all come from different backgrounds, and we bring to the church different perspectives; discarding those differences is not required for unity. Peter’s plea here is that believers have agreement on substantive matters. We are to share one Lord, one faith, and one baptism.
One of our greatest benefits as a community group is that we come from a variety of churches and even more numerable family backgrounds. We have to one common thread in our tapestry and that is Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Our group does not get into debates about pews or chairs, pulpits or music stands. Some like all new worship music, others like old-fashion hymns and still others prefer southern gospel. Some prefer the New Living Translation of the bible, while others are rooted in a flavor of King James, still others are accustomed to English Standard Version and New International Version.
Peter is not writing about such insignificant matters; rather, he is saying that we should be single-minded in our understanding of the person and work of Christ. We can and must be united in our confession of the essentials of the Christian faith, but there is plenty of room for differences in lesser matters. I believe it is safe to say that there are not two people in our group who would agree on everything.
We can find things about which to agree with people from all walks of life, yet the worldview we embrace as Christians is on a collision course with the thinking of this world. When I read articles in the newspaper, hear the commentaries on television, and listen to the speeches of popular people, I find myself much more in disagreement than I do in agreement.
Have you found that the more you follow Christ, the more you are disheartened with the people/stories on television and radio?
We should not be like-minded with the world. Don’t get this wrong, we can agree with people in this world from time to time. The key is that we should be rooted and grounded in the truth of God. The values of Christ should be what shapes and frames our opinions. There are some things that are good and we can totally support them, but the things of this world take discernment.
Bringing our minds into conformity with the mind of Christ by submitting to the Word of God is a lifelong enterprise. It is not easy and it will not happen in an instant. This will not be something you practice, do and then forget about. We will be challenged about what we think by our own flesh, others in this world as well as the enemy.
The Word of God gives us the perspective of God, and that perspective is radically different from the perspective of the world. Because we want to share the perspective of God, and because our thinking is being formed by that, this should lead us to a very important like-mindedness as we share our common faith in the truth of God. The like-mindedness that is to mark the communion of the saints is so precious that we need to guard it carefully.
We should not just believe something because we heard it on a sermon or a preacher or Sunday school teacher said it. As members of a church, as part of a flock, God requires that we give honor to the pastor and take his words seriously. God has set him as the shepherd over a particular flock. However, he is an under-shepherd, not the Great Shepherd. The pastor does not speak with the authority or infallibility of Christ. We must remember that all pastors, teachers and individuals we listen to in this world are sinners. They will not always be right and don’t expect them to be. So many times people put all their hope in a person and then are let down and discredit all the correct things said because they sinned. That is not healthy.
Like-mindedness has to come by submission to God’s Word, not to the preacher’s word, but like-mindedness is something we should cultivate and guard jealously in the church and our community group. Or we risk allowing petty matters to destroy the unity of the body of Christ. Most churches split not because of a theological rift but over what color to paint the church basement. So, unity is the first virtue to which Peter calls us.
The second virtue, he says, is having compassion for one another. Other translations read “having sympathy for one another.” The idea here is not so much one person’s feeling sorry for another. To have compassion is to share common feelings. “I feel your pain” has become a trite expression in our day. However, the ability to feel another’s pain and joy is what we are called to do:
Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep – Romans 12:15
To have sympathy is pathos, or passion that is shared. We should share each other’s passion. We have various passions about various things, but passion for the virtuous things of God is a contagious matter. If one of us has great feelings of worship, we should share that with one another.
Then Peter says we are to love as brothers. Well, this can be undefined in itself. Like myself, I have never had a biological brother, and even people that I know that have brothers, their relationships are nothing to be modeled against.
The love we learn from the New Testament is one that transcends the earthly sort of love. Even the concept of brotherly love does not quite capture the kind of love that we are to have for fellow Christians. I know from personal experience that I have more love for men in this community group than I have ever had for biological family members. The family is the chief metaphor that the Scriptures give for the church. God is our Father, and we are His adopted children. If Christ loves you, and you are in Christ, and Christ loves me, and I am in Christ, then what could possibly be more natural than to have at the bottom of this pyramid a connection of love between us? We should love one another if for no other reason than that we share the same Father.
God has blessed me with a family that is a place of refuge. I can depend upon the loyalty of my wife, and many of you in times of trouble. I hear horror stories of people that are haunted by disloyalty, pride, and brokenness. I have not always agreed with my sister, nor has she always agreed with me, but one thing she will always be is my sister, and I will always be to her a brother.
We also are to be tenderhearted. Other translations supply a different word here, but the thought is that, in the church, there should be a certain shared tenderness. Tenderness is the opposite of roughness. We know what it means to be kind, and we all have known people who manifest a remarkable degree of kindness. When we recognize someone as being kind, we are recognizing a tender heart—not a hardened, mean, thoughtless heart.
When Jesus was with the hard-hearted, He pulled no punches, when He dealt with the Pharisees and the Sadducees, He was not Jesus meek and mild.
The fifth virtue is courteousness. The word courtesy came into common usage in England during the Elizabethan period. It was derived from two words, court and etiquette. Court etiquette, shortened to “courtesy,” was defined in terms of how honor and respect were to be given to the royal family, and those principles of etiquette were practiced in the court. Honor and respect became the ideals for those who served the crown.
Etiquette, sadly, has become almost a lost art in our society, and it would be good for Christian families to give refresher courses in etiquette to their children.
To be courteous means to respect other people. We are to respect their feelings and their position, which is simply an extension of the principle of honor. The ethic of the church is that we are to honor others above ourselves, which goes against common behavior whereby humans are constantly seeking to gain the esteem of others rather than offering it. Conversely, Christian ethics teach us to esteem our brothers as higher than we esteem ourselves. That is a high calling.
The Ideal Church
These five virtues to which we are called as a church describe the ideal church. We are not an ideal church. We are not even an ideal community group. We do not always share feelings with family or even each other. We are not always of one mind. We do not always love each other as family, nor are we always tender, courteous, and respectful, but these are the values that God loves.
Out of the five, harmonious, compassion, brotherly love, tenderhearted, courteous…
– which do you find the most difficult in your walk?
– which area seems simple and a victory?
– which area do you believe our community group could really improve?
For what reason?
9 not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. – 1 Peter 3:8-9
Peter now changes from the positive to the negative, first telling us what we should do, then telling us what we should not do. We can get hung up on the whole situation of not paying anyone back and to do the “right thing”, but if we are just told to do something without reason, we lose the motivation. Once we learn the why to a command it makes it easier to obey. This way of living is rewarded, not just in complements, but from our Lord. We will inherit a blessing. Remember, inheritance comes from a family, mainly your parents, if we understand we are adopted into God’s family, our inheritance, a blessing, is going to come from God.
We must grasp this thought that we may not get a blessing from those around us when we act right, and we should be okay with that; knowing where our blessing is coming from. There may be times when we are taking advantage of, but let us remember who is going to have the last word.
Let us also tie this back into the last chapter where Peter was front loading us with this idea.
20if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.21 For to this you have been called – 1 Peter 2:20-21 ESV
It is what he has called us to do. If we are Christians, this is how we are to live our lives. Her is something that was an eye-opener for me in this verse about not returning evil for evil. I am so blessed and fortunate that God did not return to me all the evil I did against him. I was vile and self-centered for decades. Opposing his loving nature and hurting many of his children, the actual family I ended up getting adopted into. He did not return my evil with evil. Just think of all the wrong you have done, and imagine if that was turned on you in an instant, how devastating that would be. God shows us this exact scripture in detail of our own lives.
10 For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; 11 let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. 12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” – 1 Peter 3:9-12
We have noted that love is a recurring theme in Peter’s letters, not only God’s love for us, but also our love for others. Peter had to learn this important lesson himself, and he had a hard time learning it! How patient Jesus had to be with him!
We should begin with love for God’s people (1 Peter 3:8). The word finally means “to sum it all up.” Just as the whole of the law is summed up in love (Rom. 13:8–10), so the whole of human relationships is fulfilled in love.
This applies to every Christian and to every area of life.
This love is evidenced by a unity of mind (see Phil. 2:1–11). Unity does not mean uniformity; it means cooperation in the midst of diversity. The members of the body work together in unity, even though they are all different. Christians may differ on how things are to be done, but they must agree on what is to be done and why.
A good approach is shared about D. L. Moody and his methods of evangelism. A man criticized D. L. Moody’s methods, and Moody said, “Well, I’m always ready for improvement. What are your methods?” The man confessed that he had none! “Then I’ll stick to my own,” said Moody.
Whatever methods we may use, we must seek to honor Christ, win the lost, and build the church. Some methods are definitely not scriptural, but there is plenty of room for variety in the church.
Another evidence of love is compassion, a sincere “feeling for and with” the needs of others. We need to be watchful about becoming hardhearted toward each other. We must share both joys and trials (Romans 12:15). The basis for this is the fact that we are of the same family (see 1 Peter 1:22; 2:17; 4:8; 5:14). We are “taught of God to love one another” (1 Thessalonians. 4:9).
Love reveals itself in pity, a tenderness of heart toward others. In the Roman Empire, this was not a quality that was admired, but the Christian message changed all of that. Today, with all the news about persecutions of Christians in the middle east, it is easy for us to get insulated and unfeeling. We need to cultivate compassion and actively show others that we are concerned.
“Be courteous” involves much more than acting like a gentleman. “Be humble-minded” is a good translation, and, after all, humility is the foundation for courtesy, for the humble person puts others ahead of himself. I cannot think of the word humble anymore without envisioning Jesus kneeling down to wash the disciples feet.
Not only should we love God’s people, but we should also love our enemies (1 Peter 3:9). The recipients of this letter were experiencing a certain amount of personal persecution because they were doing the will of God. Peter warned them that official persecution was just around the corner, so they had better prepare. The church today had better prepare, because difficult times are ahead. There just might be a day when you are faced with an enemy to renounce your belief in Jesus. That is a hard, real, truthful challenge that is not too far off in this world.
As Christians, we can live on one of three levels. We can return evil for good, which is the satanic level. We can return good for good and evil for evil, which is the human level. Or, we can return good for evil, which is the divine level. Jesus is the perfect example of this latter approach (1 Peter 2:21–23). As God’s loving children, we must do more than give “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth” (Matthew 5:38–48), which is the basis for justice. We must operate on the basis of mercy, for that is the way God deals with us.
This admonition must have meant much to Peter himself, because he once tried to fight Christ’s enemies with a sword (Luke 22:47–53). When he was an unconverted rabbi, Paul used every means possible to oppose the church; but when he became a Christian, Paul never used human weapons to fight God’s battles (Romans 12:17–21; 2 Corinthians 10:1–6). When Peter and the apostles were persecuted, they depended on prayer and God’s power, not on their own wisdom or strength (see Acts 4:23ff.).
We must always be reminded of our calling as Christians, for this will help us love our enemies and do them good when they treat us badly. We are called to “inherit a blessing.” The persecutions we experience on earth today only add to our blessed inheritance of glory in heaven someday (Matthew 5:10–12). But we also inherit a blessing today when we treat our enemies with love and mercy. By sharing a blessing with them, we receive a blessing ourselves! Persecution can be a time of spiritual enrichment for a believer. The saints and martyrs in church history all bear witness to this fact.
We should love one another, love our enemies, and love life (1 Peter 3:10–12). The news of impending persecution should not cause a believer to give up on life. What may appear to be “bad days” to the world can be “good days” for a Christian, if he will only meet certain conditions.
First, we must deliberately decide to love life. This is an act of the will: “He who wills to love life.” It is an attitude of faith that sees the best in every situation. We can decide to endure life and make it a burden, escape life as though we were running from a battle, or enjoy life because we know God is in control. Peter was not suggesting some kind of unrealistic psychological gymnastics that refused to face facts. Rather, he was urging his readers to take a positive approach to life and by faith make the most of every situation.
Second, we must control our tongues. Many of the problems of life are caused by the wrong words, spoken in the wrong spirit. Every Christian should read James 3 regularly and pray Psalm 141:3 daily. How well Peter knew the sad consequences of hasty speech! There is no place for lies in the life of a man of God, a saint.
Third, we must do good and hate evil. We need both the positive and the negative. It is not enough for us to avoid sin because sin is wrong; we ought to shun it because we hate it.
Finally, we must seek and pursue peace. “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God” (Matthew 5:9). If we go out and seek trouble, we will find it, but if we seek peace, we can find it as well. This does not mean “peace at any price,” because righteousness must always be the basis for peace (James 3:13–18). It simply means that a Christian exercises moderation as he relates to people and does not create problems because he wants to have his own way.
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. – Romans 12:18
We have to also realize sometimes it is not possible and it is very difficult! See Romans 14:19, where we are also admonished to work hard to achieve peace. It does not come automatically.
“But what if our enemies take advantage of us?” a persecuted Christian might ask. “We may be seeking peace, but they are seeking war!” Peter gave them the assurance that God’s eyes are on His people and His ears open to their prayers. (Peter learned that lesson when he tried to walk on the water without looking to Jesus—Matthew 14:22–33.) We must trust God to protect and provide, for He alone can defeat our enemies (Romans 12:17–21).
Peter quoted these statements from Psalm 34:12–15, so it would be profitable for you to read the entire psalm. It describes what God means by “good days.” They are not necessarily days free from problems, for the psalmist wrote about fears (Ps. 34:4), troubles (Ps. 34:6, 17), afflictions (Ps. 34:19), and even a broken heart (Ps. 34:18). A “good day” for the believer who “loves life” is not one in which he is pampered and sheltered, but one in which he experiences God’s help and blessing because of life’s problems and trials. It is a day in which he magnifies the Lord (Ps. 34:1–3), experiences answers to prayer (Ps. 34:4–7), tastes the goodness of God (Ps. 34:8), and senses the nearness of God (Ps. 34:18).
The next time you think you are having a “bad day” and you hate life, read Psalm 34, and you may discover you are really having a “good day” to the glory of God!
Sproul, R. C. (2011-03-08). 1-2 Peter (St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary). Crossway.