Peter had given his readers much to think about. Surely at least some of it was not new. But there is a good chance some of it -was-. And Peter had covered much ground. He had given instruction about every basic area of life, living as holy and honorable under the gaze of the unbelieving world.
Church life: Be built up into a spiritual house and be the spiritual priesthood as well.
Inner life: Abstain from worldly desires and love brothers and sisters in Christ from the heart.
Public life: Honor everyone, and particularly honor earthly authorities, as well as willingly cooperate with them.
Lot in life: Peter likened the lot of the enslaved with Jesus when he was crucified. They were to follow Christ’s example in accepting authority and enduring suffering, whether they deserved it or not.
Married life: Peter addressed how to live honorably for those married to nonChristians
Now it was time to review the basic principles and qualities of the transformed life that would apply to those areas Peter had not covered.
Inheritance of Blessing
Peter not only was a seasoned student of the scriptures, he had also been at Jesus’ side for the full three years of Jesus’ public ministry, and had had his mind opened by Jesus—along with the rest of the Lord’s one hundred and twenty core disciples and supporters—to understand the whole of the scriptures’ fulfilment in Christ.
Add to this Peter’s upbringing as a faithful and fervent fearer of God, and we can know both the Shema and the revelation of God had deep impact on Peter’s understanding of how to live as holy unto the Lord.
Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.Deuteronomy 6:4-5 (NRSV)
As well as,
So you shall remember and do all my commandments, and you shall be holy to your God.Numbers 15:40 (NRSV)
SUM OF GOD’S COMMANDMENTS
You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.Leviticus 19:18 (NRSV)
As well as,
If your enemies are hungry, give them bread to eat;Proverbs 25:21-22 (NRSV)
and if they are thirsty, give them water to drink;
for you will heap coals of fire on their heads,
and the Lord will reward you.
Peter summarized these foundational scriptures in his digest of the principles and qualities he had been outlining.
Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called—that you might inherit a blessing.1 Peter 3:8-10 (NRSV)
Peter called for five spiritual qualities, and two consistent actions: Have
- Unity of spirit—ὁμόφρων [homophron], “one-mind”
- Sympathy—συμπαθής [sympathes], “having a fellow-feeling, compassion”
- Love for one another—φιλάδελφος [philadelphos], “brotherly/sisterly love”
- Tender heart—εὔσπλαγχνος [eusplagxnos], “sometimes a medical term, one moved by compassion”
- Humble mind— ταπεινόφρων [tapeinophron], “lowly in mind” (attitude)
- Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse.
- Repay with a blessing.
The apostles were absolutely united in this teaching, and both Peter and Paul taught this in much the same way, as you can see below
Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.Romans 12:9-18, 21 (NRSV)
All four gospels remember Jesus teaching in this manner.
Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
. . . Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also.
. . . I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.Matthew 5:11-12, 39, 44 (NRSV)
Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”Mark 9:50 (NRSV)
Love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for [God] is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.
Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.Luke 6:35-36 (NRSV)
I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”John 13:34-35 (NRSV)
Repay Evil with Good
Peter completed his summary with a citation from the Psalms
Those who desire life
and desire to see good days,
let them keep their tongues from evil
and their lips from speaking deceit;
let them turn away from evil and do good;
let them seek peace and pursue it.
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 3:10-12 (NRSV)
If I were to add my own practical tips on how to live out this Psalm to the full, I might add:
- Choose to love life, having faith that there is something to praise and thank God for. Instead of simply enduring life or trying to escape life, enjoy the Lord and God’s personal, and intimate, presence.
- Cooperate with God, seeking God’s action and movement in the situation, viewing this as an opportunity to make the most of by joining God, yielding to what God is doing, and even co-laboring with God.
- Communicate in the Spirit, asking for a fresh infilling of God’s Holy Spirit to put the Lord’s good words on the tongue and between the lips.
- Cast vision for good, in looking for the good to do, while simultaneously turning away from the temptation to do evil.
- Create harmony, pursuing and actively working towards peace that is founded upon truth and love.
We may not be able to stop evil, harm, and pain from entering our lives. Corruption and death are still realities. But we can choose to respond in the Spirit of Christ, a supernatural response that is first the result of God’s divine work of transformation within, and is also our willingness to allow that divine work to replace the way we used to be.
[The Shema, קריאת שמע במנורת הכנסת | By Tamar HaYardeni – Own work by the original uploader, Attribution, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=62597352%5D