Peter has been writing to suffering first-century Christians to encourage them with the hope of Christ and to spur them toward holy living in the midst of their trials. As we’ve seen the past couple of weeks, we’re now in a section in Peter’s letter where he has been motivating those same suffering Christians to pursue the good work of Christlike humility and submission as they persevere through their own hard circumstances. By extension, we’ve received those same motivations for our own trials in our own day, that we might reflect the meekness of Christ and emulate Jesus to others.
This week, as Peter begins to move forward from the topic of submission, Peter encourage us to be a blessing to others, even our enemies and those who insult and persecute us.
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. (1 Peter 3:8-9 NIV)
We find Peter’s main point in this section at the end of verse 9: the Christian’s call to bless others. He even tells us what this looks like! In verse 8, we’re told to be like-minded, sympathetic, loving, compassionate, and humble. It’s quite obvious, in observing his use of language, that Peter is calling his original readers to exercise these directives among themselves as members of God’s family. They are to be like-minded—united in their faith—and they are to love one another—literally, they are to love each other with brotherly love, as brothers and sisters in Christ. This teaches us: our starting point for blessing others is within our community of faith, among fellow believers in the body of Christ. But, of course, this doesn’t mean we only bless fellow believers. On the contrary, blessing fellow Christians ought to overflow outside the church, even toward those standing against us.
Peter tells us:
Do not repay evil with evil.
Do not repay insult with insult.
What Peter is highlighting here is the virtue of non-retaliation. He knows very well of our temptation to retaliate. After all, on the night Jesus was betrayed and arrested, it was Peter who pulled out his sword to defend Jesus (John 18:10). Now the older and wiser Peter is instructing all followers of Christ to sheathe their swords when met with evil and insult.
But Peter doesn’t stop with self-restraint against retaliation. He moves forward with positive action once more, calling followers of Christ to repay evil with blessing. He wants Christians to be known for their gracious response to evil and persecution. Of course, there are times for silent response, as Jesus showed in his trial (Matthew 26:63), and we need wisdom to know when it’s best to simply be silent. But ordinarily, we should be ready to bless those who persecute us. Paul gives us a similar exhortation: “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse” (Romans 12:14). In Matthew 5:44, Jesus himself encourages his followers to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
Even at the cross, Jesus blessed his enemies. Remember his words? “Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing’” (Luke 23:34). So, yes, sometimes we respond to insults and evil with silence, but ordinarily we are called to respond with sympathy, love, compassion, humility, and—of course—a pronounced blessing or an action that blesses. And there’s a great motive for us to do so.
Notice the last phrase of verse 9: “because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.” The great inheritance in Old Testament times was the blessing of the Promised Land. Now, in New Testament times, the great blessing from God is a heavenly homeland, or, in other words, eternal life with him in heaven! As we look to our heavenly homeland as the great blessing that awaits us, we are encouraged to bless those who persecute us. Or, stated in different terms, because God has already given us such a great blessing in Christ—saving us even when we were still his enemies (Romans 5:8)—we should do likewise; we should bless those who insult us and do evil against us.
My dear New Life Community Church, may we be known as those who bless and do not curse. As we look to our Savior, who died for us while we were still sinners, may we be motivated to do more than bless fellow believers. May we be so captivated by the good news of Jesus that we would be willing to bless those who persecute us, as well.
With love for you in Christ,