In the 1950 movie All About Eve, Bette Davis’s character warns, “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.” I wish someone would have warned us back in January about all the bumps, conflicts, trials, uncertainties, and fears 2020 was bringing our way – and we’re not done yet. But as Christ-followers, this should be our time to shine. To really show what it means to love one another.
Every day it seems the divisions between people are getting larger and more defined. Nuance and understanding are swallowed up in the gulf. We fight over labels and what they mean instead of seeing ourselves and each other in honest truth. We are quick to point out injustices, unfairness, and slights (but only if they help our cause and hurt the other side). Welcome to the new normal (he writes sarcastically).
Let’s reject this new normal and live by a different standard. The Apostle Peter wrote a letter to some persecuted believers. In that letter, he 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.” (1 Peter 3:8–9, NASB95) Wouldn’t that shake things up a bit?
Peter provides five words in quick succession, harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit. The Greek word translated harmonious leans towards like-minded or following the same path—those points where we agree with one another. Sympathetic, being open to the emotions of others and sharing them at some level. Brotherly, in this context, means to love one another as brothers and sisters. While “brotherly” is the feeling of love, kindhearted is the compassionate actions of love. And, lastly, having an attitude of humility in all of this. In these five words, Peter touches our thoughts, the feelings of others, our emotions, our actions, and our attitudes. Through these, we can fulfill the rest of Peter’s encouragement.
It’s easy to return fire with fire, insult for insult, and evil for evil. It feels good and soothes our conscience and satisfies the need to do something. Fight back seems to be the motto of the day – regardless of which side of a hot button issue you land on. But Peter, and the rest of scripture, instructs us as Christ-followers to give a blessing instead of returning evil for evil. Impossible unless we’ve adopted the five previous attributes of harmony, sympathy, love, compassion, and humility.
Here’s a thought, instead of trying to dispute and argue, what if we went a different way? Maybe we could lay down our own need to be right and listen. Find out where we are like-minded. We may find that we agree on the problem but have different solutions. Discover why someone feels the way they do; put ourselves in their shoes for a few moments. Approach our enemies and those who seem to be against us with love instead of hate. Then, allowing our mind, feelings, and love to spur us to positive and compassionate action. Above all, we must reject any attitude in ourselves of being better or smarter or holier and adopt an attitude of humility. Then we can genuinely give a blessing in the face of evil.
Peter ends these verses with a promise. Taking this path results in inheriting a blessing. He doesn’t explain what that blessing is, but I have to wonder if he doesn’t hear echoes of Jesus’ beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-12. Blessed are peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.