Inherent in just about everything we read, see, or hear is a call to action. Sometimes it’s just a subtle suggestion. An unspoken hint that life would be better or more fun if we owned, say, a particular car. Often the call to action is brash and bold. “But wait there’s more, call now and get two miracle magic whatchamadings for only 19.95 (plus shipping, handling, and whatever else we can tack on).” The call to action may be the adoption of a way of thinking or feeling that is being played out in the novel we’re reading or the show we’re watching. Our next step through 1 Peter also contains a powerful and challenging call to action.
Welcome to our sixteenth step of our Walk Through 1st Peter. In the past few articles, Peter has laid out some challenges for his readers regarding the relationships of life. All of the past articles are available on our website – Lambchow.com. Peter wrote, “To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; 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. For, “The one who desires life, to love and see good days, Must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit. “He must turn away from evil and do good; He must seek peace and pursue it. “For the eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous, And His ears attend to their prayer, But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”” (1 Peter 3:8–12, NASB95)
To Sum Up…
Peter’s list covers the broad spectrum of what it means to follow Jesus. Let’s briefly consider each one in turn. Harmonious, in this instance could also be translated as “like-minded.” Consider music to get to his meaning. Each instrument has its own voice, some high, some booming, some mellow, some bold, some constant, some occasional. As the orchestra or band is warming up and each one is doing their own thing, it sounds awful. But how it moves the soul once they’re all on the same page playing in harmony. The orchestra is like-minded in that they are playing the same piece of music but diverse in their parts.
Where being harmonious speaks to the mind, being sympathetic speaks to our feelings. How sensitive are we to the feelings of others. For example, modern cars have a multitude of sensors. There are sensors in the tires to detect air pressure. Sensors in the engine to detect oil pressure, temperatures, and oxygen levels. Even a sensor to detect if the driver is wearing their seatbelt. The sensors themselves do nothing, only detect and report. In a way, our sympathetic feelings are like that. While we should detect the feelings of others, what we do with those feelings should be controlled by the Spirit. Sometimes we may need to get in the ditch with someone. However, sometimes we need to throw them a rope and help them out.
Our next term is brotherly with the idea of the bond of love shared by siblings. Granted, not all brothers and sisters get along or even like each other. You may need to look beyond personal experience to gain a better picture. The bond of love between siblings is forged of shared experiences. We not only see this in the family dynamic but also in other experiences shared with others. Consider the camaraderie found in combat, sports, and business. That’s really Peter’s point, as we share our journey of faith with others a love grows. Especially so when we go to battle on their behalf in prayer which is one example of brotherly love.
Where we relate strong feelings to our heart, the ancients looked a little lower. The word interpreted kind-hearted is literally “healthy intestines.” Now, before we all run out to a gastrointestinal doctor and schedule a full checkup, let’s recognize that Peter was speaking figuratively. Perhaps the best figuratively word would be compassionate. A willingness to feel and to act. Or dare I add the pun – a willingness to move. Kind-hearted doesn’t just see something, it does something without judgment or strings.
Lastly, Peter reminds us that all must be done with a humble spirit. It doesn’t mean that we can’t take bold action. Humility may not lower the volume, but it does change our focus. Remember in Acts when Peter and John encountered a lame man. “But Peter said, “I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—walk!”” (Acts 3:6, NASB95) Who healed the lame man, Peter or Jesus? Wouldn’t we all say that Jesus did? Humble and humility doesn’t mean meek and weak. Humble means that Jesus gets all the glory whether we’re doing a simple act of service or in a position of leadership.
The Grace of Blessing
Most of us would consider being harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kind-hearted, and humble as doable or at least possible in our walk with Jesus and others. Hard at times, yet achievable. And then Peter throws us a curve ball, “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.” The normal human reaction is to return fire and to hit back whenever we feel abused, offended, wounded, or treated unjustly. Right? If in doubt turn on the news and examples will pour out like a flood.
Those that walk with Jesus are called to a more difficult path. Going beyond Moses’ legal balance of eye for an eye Jesus commanded us to turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, and to also bless our enemies. At this point, we may think, “Wait, they don’t deserve God’s blessing,” with perhaps an implied “but I do.” That’s the problem, none of us deserves God’s blessings and favor. That’s why it is called grace.
One definition of grace is getting something we don’t deserve. Yes, our enemies don’t deserve God’s love, grace, peace, or goodness. That’s the point. By speaking blessings on those who speak evil we are doing two things.
First, we’re releasing them from the debt and chains caused by their words and actions. We’re walking in the freedom of forgiveness. When we desire to retaliate, we are compounding sin in a never ending cycle. When we forgive and bless we break the cycle, not only releasing those we would count as enemies but ourselves as well.
Second, we are asking God to give our enemies what they need instead of what they deserve. What is after all the greatest blessing? To know Jesus and have our sins forgiven. There are so many blessings that follow. Instead of desiring judgment we are praying for salvation. They may not want it or even know they need it. The question for us is if we trust God to give them bread instead of a stone. (see also Luke 6:28, Romans 12:14, 1 Corinthian 4:12)
What this means is we can’t build emotional or tribal like walls where we love and bless those inside the walls but ignore, devalue, or even hate those outside our walls.
Call to Action
To sum up, Peter instructs his readers to be proactive and responsive to the world around us. To live, work, and do life in a way that is harmonious in a like-minded way, sympathetic to the feelings of those around us, loving each other as a brother or sister, kind-hearted towards all, and humble so that everything glorifies Jesus. Peter’s call doesn’t end at the church parking lot but extends to everyone we encounter, even those whose behavior and speech is evil. In those instances, we are not to return the evil but speak and act with blessing.
It’s a large call to action that takes more strength of character than we probably possess. Recall the song of the Psalmist, “The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving. The Lord gives his people strength. (Psalm 28:7–8a, NLT) Peter will expand this call to action as he continues to encourage the persecuted believers of Asia Minor and by extension us as well.