Returning to our series in I Peter.
Tried With Fire — I Peter
#7 THE DUTY OF ALL BELIEVERS (3:8-12)
This passage completes the section which began with chapter 2:11. In preparing the believers to face trials, Peter reiterates that we are here on this earth as strangers and pilgrims, and so trials and persecution are to be expected. As strangers and pilgrims, we are to live differently, and he outlined our duties as citizens (13-17), servants (18-20), as followers of Christ’s example (21-25), and as husbands and wives (3:1-7). Now, in this section, he sums up the duty of all believers, as strangers and pilgrims.
I. To Love One Another
8 Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous:
A. Of One Mind. This does not mean we will all agree on everything — Romans 14 makes that very clear. It does mean that all true believers should be agreed on the main things, with a unity of mind as to the great truths and great purpose of God. We should be united together in faith.
This can’t happen unless we as individuals are single-minded. “A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.” God wants us to be single-minded on the great purpose. Our great purpose is not to build a big church (part of the point of yesterday’s post that got so much attention). We do not come to church primarily to receive a blessing from others, to give a blessing to others, or to learn something from God’s Word (though all those things are good and part of why we meet). We don’t come to be made to feel a certain way. The purpose of our meeting together as a church is to honour God, to exalt Him, to glorify Him. I hope you bless and are blessed, but that is not the main thing! It is not about you or me, it is about God.
We need to be single-minded in honouring God, both in daily life and when we meet together as a church. If we are, we will be united together as well. If individual members are not single-minded about our great purpose, it is impossible to maintain true unity in the long term. “One-mindedness” begins with each of us, as individuals, being single-minded on the true purpose.
B. Compassion — of One Feeling. We are to share one another’s feelings. God calls us to rejoice with those who rejoice, to weep with those who weep, to sorrow with those who sorrow.
C. “Philadelphians”. That is the actual Greek word. Philadelphia is called “The City of Brotherly Love” because philadelphos means “brother loving.” We are to be characterized by brotherly love. Our love for one another should be such a pervading characteristic of our lives that those who know us would call us “the ones who love their brothers.”
D. Tender-hearted/Soft-hearted. That is the idea expressed here, being “full of pity”, with hearts towards others. We need to be aware and tuned in to the feelings of others. It is not enough to share their joys and sorrows only when we know of them — God wants us to tune in so we will know of them. If we are usually clueless, God wants us to learn to listen and look. He wants to teach us to hear the heart’s cry of others, even when it is muted or hidden.
E. Considerate/Courteous. God’s people should be models of courtesy and consideration. Our conduct towards one another should be always exemplary.
II. To Love Our Enemies
9 Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.
A. Not Rendering Evil for Evil. This is a general statement — whatever kind of evil someone does to us, we are not to do evil back to them. The idea of “rendering” is a payment of what is due, which makes the teaching very clear — we are not to pay back evil, even when that is the proper payment of what is due. This is talking about the person who FULLY deserves to receive evil for the thing they have done — but we are not to “render” (pay) the evil that they deserve.
B. Blessing, not Cursing/Railing. This is a specific example of the type of evil we are not to pay back, and probably the one that is the greatest temptation to us — angry, harsh, bitter words. When we think such words against people, we are tempted to say them. When we dwell on thinking and saying them, we are tempted to act wrongly as well. Instead, we are to bless. What you think will impact what you say, so we’d better start sorting out our thought lives on this. Don’t think angry words, think blessing, and pray for it.
Of course, the greatest blessing anyone can have is to be forgiven for the wrong they have done, and be set free from the slavery of sin. So “thinking blessing” doesn’t necessarily mean ignoring the wrong. But there is a huge difference between thinking (and saying) words of cursing or railing against someone and praying and hoping that they can be forgiven and walk joyfully with the Lord.
Now, you may say, “Nobody does that, and people won’t understand if we do.” It’s the kind of oddball thing that strangers and pilgrims might do, right? It is unnatural. It is, well, spiritual….
C. Because We Inherit a Blessing. This is the reason we are able to do the unnatural — because we inherit a blessing. We should not ignore the point of the word “inherit” here. If my wife and I were to die, my children would inherit our possessions. Why? Because they are part of the Gleason family. Why do we inherit a blessing? Because we have been made part of God’s family of blessing. We have been born again into that family — we are now blessed people of blessing, not cursed people of cursing. This is the thing He has called us to, this family of blessed and blessing strangers and pilgrims.
III. To Live Out Our New Nature
10 For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile:
11 Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it.
We have a new life in this family, and it changes our very nature. We are a different kind of people.
A. We Have a Life to Love. Those who follow Christ have a life worth loving. The happy people of this world are those who follow God’s principles. Even many who do not know the Lord have a large measure of happiness when they order their life by God’s principles. But the happiest people in this world are those who know Him and obey Him. If you think of the people you know, and ask yourself, “Are they truly happy?” you will see that the happiest, those who truly love life, are the ones who walk with Him.
B. We Keep Our Words Right. A characteristic of our new nature is that we work to keep our words right. We don’t speak wrong things, nor do we even border on trickery in our speech. We need to be straightforward and right in our words. Of course, to do this, we must be straightforward and right in our hearts.
C. We Follow Good Paths, not Evil Ones. If you do not turn your life towards the Lord, you cannot “eschew” or turn away from evil — your life is headed the wrong direction, and you will go into evil over and over, without even looking to do so. In living out the new nature given to us, we go in the direction of good, of following Christ, not in the direction of evil.
When we went to France, I couldn’t read the signs, and I made five years’ worth of wrong turns in two weeks. I didn’t know the language. When we become Christians, we begin to learn God’s language, and we become better and better at reading the signs and following the right paths. We’ll still wander off the right paths at times, but the more we go in God’s direction, the more skilled we will become at going in God’s direction. If you are struggling with staying on good paths in your Christian walk, take heart. As you seek to follow Him, you’ll learn His language better as time goes by, you’ll learn to recognise the good paths and the bad, and He’ll give you enough road signs as you go to keep you in His ways.
D. We Seek and Pursue Peace. The child of God who lives out his new nature is seeking peace, and pursuing it. There are two verbs there, to first seek and locate, then secondly to pursue. “Peace” in the New Testament usually means “peace with God”, the peace of being reconciled to Him, and / or the peacefulness in our heart that flows out of that reconciliation. I see no reason to apply any other meaning here.
This verse is not primarily focused on our relations with others (that was in verse nine), but with God. So an attribute of our new nature is that we desire and seek for peace with God, and we also “pursue” it — we diligently seek to maintain that right relation with Him out of which continued peace comes.
IV. Remember that the Lord is Watching
12 For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.
A. His Eyes Watch Over the Righteous. Too often, when we think of the eyes of the Lord watching, it can be a fearful thing — “I must do right, because God is always watching.” That is assuredly NOT the emphasis here. He is lovingly, carefully, watching over us. “The Lord knoweth the way of the righteous.” His eyes miss none of our needs, our struggles, our striving. He is always watching over us.
I think of times we took our children to play in the park. We might sit and watch, while they ran around and played. We would be on the lookout for stray dogs or anything else that might threaten any danger to them, but we would mostly just enjoy watching them play, watching them with eyes of love. If they would wander towards the street, or head towards a place that would be out of our sight, we would correct them, so that they would be free from danger. But it wasn’t a “watching to get them if they went wrong” kind of vigilance, it was a loving, protecting, watch-care over them. This is the way the Lord watches us, according to this verse.
B. His Ears are Towards Our Prayers. He not only hears our prayers, our entreaties, our begging. His ears are turned toward us, always ready to hear, always wanting to hear.
Sometimes, parents are focused on other things, and their children have to repeat themselves, or tug on an arm, or do a variety of other things to get Dad or Mum’s attention. This is not so with the Lord. His ears are tuned in to our wavelength.
C. His Face is Against Those Doing Evil. Those who follow the Lord have God’s eyes and ears turned to us, loving, compassionate, always ready. Those who do evil, on the other hand, have His face turned against them.
Notice the contrast between the beginning of verse 9 and the end of verse 12. We are not to render evil for evil, but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil. We do not have to render evil to them, even though evil is their due, because the Lord’s face is against them — what more could we do to them? We should not render evil to them, for we also are due evil, but the Lord has been merciful to us and brought us into His family — might not He also be merciful to them, and we would then be guilty of working evil against one of His? And of course, we should not render evil to them, because then we also will be among those who do evil, against whom His face is turned.
As we seek to fulfil our duties as strangers and pilgrims, this last verse reminds us — as we are His people who trust in Him, God has a duty to us. He watches over us, cares for us, and deals with evildoers. We may be strangers and pilgrims to this world, but to our God, we are His beloved children.