A Tender Heart
“Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing” (1 Peter 3:9).- 1 Peter 3:8–9
Today we resume our study of 1 Peter in chapter 3, verses 8 and 9. We have been examining Peter’s exhortations to live holy lives so that our conduct might be seen as honorable by non-believers (2:11–12). As Christians we do this by submitting ourselves to the various authorities God has placed over us (2:13–18). Also, married couples live honorably and stand firm in their faith when husbands and wives fulfill their roles in marriage (3:1–7).
In verse 8, Peter develops some of the themes he has already mentioned previously. He tells us to regard one another with brotherly love, tenderness, sympathy, humility and with unity of mind. The focus here is on behavior within the Christian community although the character traits of sympathy and humility would also apply to our dealings with non-believers, especially in light of Peter’s exhortation that we not repay evil with evil in verse 9.
When we behave in the manner prescribed in verse 8, we are strengthened to stand firm in the faith. When we seek unity among the brethren, we find encouragement from many other believers. This does not mean that we seek unity at all costs, but it does mean that we divide only over matters essential to the Gospel. Likewise, as we treat others with humble love and sympathy, we point our brothers and sisters toward Christ who does the same.
Verse 9 deals more with relationships that we have with those outside of the Christian community, although the fact that the church is full of sinners makes this verse applicable to Christian relationships as well. In imitation of the Lord who bought us with his own blood, we must not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling (see 2:23). Rather, we are to bless our enemies (3:9). We will look at this idea in more detail over the next few days. We conclude today by stating that it is our confidence in God’s perfect judgment that enables us to bless our enemies. Because of our sin, our personal attempt to repay every injustice might lead us into more evil. However, because we know that God will vindicate us at the last day, we do not have to be concerned with paying back all the evil we have ever experienced.
John Calvin says that though it is quite difficult to bless our enemies, “we ought to imitate in this case our heavenly Father, who makes his sun to rise on the unworthy.” Even our Lord pours many earthly blessings on those who would rise up against Him. Go before the Lord in prayer and ask Him to enable you to seek the well-being of people you do not like. Do good today to one of them, perhaps by offering a compliment or giving a gift.
Passages for Further Study
1 Sam. 24
1 Cor. 4:11–13