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1 Peter - Part 21 - 3:8-12 - 7-9-2017

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Instructions for All

Over the last few weeks we have been hearing from Peter some practical wisdom and instruction about how we are to live as Christians. He has given general instruction to all Christians as well as very specific instruction for the structure of the family. Today we will again see exhortation from Peter to all of us as believers as we try to live not only along side one another as family in Christ, but also how we are to behave in relation to unbelievers and those far from God. So Father we ask that you bless us this morning as we read from your word, give us the desire and the will to obey your commands that we may glorify you and that we may love both your church and our neighbors. This we ask in Jesus name - Amen.
1 Peter 3
1 Peter 3:8–12 ESV
Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. 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. For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him 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.”
Peter concludes this section with a general declaration by way of quoting that generally speaking life among the body and in our communities will go smoother if we follow these instructions. That isn’t an absolute promise that if you do right everything will go right. Look at Jesus own life, He was perfect and was still crucified. No this is rather a general statement that life tends to be better, easier, and simpler if we will simply obey. But how specifically are we to obey in this manner? Peter tells us by saying, finally have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Let’s look at each of those briefly
unity of mind - We have this mistaken idea in the Western world of what unity is and what it looks like. We have been taught that unity equals uniformity, that unity is everyone thinking the same way and doing the same things in all the same ways. But that’s not unity. Unity is defined as the state of being joined as a whole. That doesn’t mean that every part that is joined is the same. Think of the church like a puzzle - is every piece exactly the same? Of course not. Each piece is different and has a proper place that it was made to fit by the Creator of the puzzle so that when it is completed a big picture is formed. If every piece is exactly the same, not only in the size and shape of the piece but also is how the picture on the piece looks there will be no bigger picture, even if you could manage to mash all these same size pieces together. That’s uniformity, not unity. Furthermore it takes no effort to be unified with someone who is exactly like you, looks exactly like you, and thinks exactly like you. I’m gonna be honest and open up personally about something - it’s not something I usually do from the pulpit because you’re here to hear about God, not me, but today my life illustrates this idea I’m trying to teach you very well. Practically all of you know that I don’t look like the typical preacher. I have tattoos and piercings and I don’t wear a suit or tie unless it is a very special or solemn occasion - that’s just part of my style and who I am and that’s ok. Some of you may not particularly care for those things about me but you recognize that those things are not what makes a person who they are, they have nothing to do with my character or ability or personality. But not everyone in the church has treated me or my wife with that same respect and dignity. Some people that we have encountered in the various churches in our area have treated us like lepers, like second class citizens because of our aesthetic likes. They have made fun and belittled and acted in a demeaning fashion and because my wife and I both have thick skin we shrug it off. But their actions exemplify the epitome of what I’m talking about - they don’t want unity, they want uniformity. You must dress like us and talk like us and walk like us and think like us. My friends there is no dress code for Christians. You can’t describe a Christian by their outward appearance, you can’t pick them out of a crowd by looking at their wardrobe. No this is what a Christian looks like, and this, and this, and this ------ you find them by what they believe and how they behave, not by their appearance. That’s uniformity, not unity and that’s not what Peter is calling for. Peter’s saying, no matter how different you are in appearance, no matter your distinct personality and giftedness, you are all to have the same mind - the mind of Christ, that Christ is preeminent, that He is savior, that He is Lord, that He is God. That’s where our unity is and it brings together the strangest conglomeration of people from every nation to be part of one family. That’s who we are and that’s who we’re to be.
Sympathy - Peter says to show one another sympathy. This isn’t just pity for someone who is suffering, sympathy is having compassion and displaying genuine concern for your brothers and sisters in Christ. This type of compassion is more than just words, it’s more than just saying, “my sympathies.” It’s showing that concern through actions taken for the benefit of another. That’s the type of sympathy we are to have.
- you find them by what they believe and how they behave. That’s not what Peter is saying. Peter’s saying, no matter how different you are in appearance
Brotherly love - Peter says we are to have brotherly love. I don’t have any siblings, but all my friends did when I was growing up so I got a pretty good picture of what having siblings was like. I saw them annoy each other, poke fun at each other, laugh when the other got hurt, beat each other up, and just about drive each other insane sometimes. But when the chips were down, when their backs were against the wall, when there was no one else to turn to for help, they always knew that their siblings had their back. They knew that they could depend on one another, because as crazy as they drove one another, they had a bond, a deep love for one another that compelled them and bound them together. That’s what we are to have as Christians, a bond that runs deeper than any personality conflicts or disagreements we may have.
A tender heart - Peter says we are to have a tender heart. It’s so easy to become calloused and cold in the world that we live in, it’s easy to close ourselves off from one another but Peter says that’s not what we are to do. We’re to be tender to one another. Now that doesn’t mean we don’t help one another by pointing out when someone has sinned or that we condone that sin or that we just let every person who walks through the doors of the church take advantage of our love and good will. No real love will point out sin, not to try to hurt, but to try to make holy. And it may break our tender hearts to do so, but may I submit that the most calloused heart we can have towards one another as believers is to see sin and say nothing, to let that person continue in a behavior that is killing their souls and bringing them under God’s wrath is to hate them in the most vile of ways. But we must also be wise with our tender hearts. Not everyone who walks through the doors of this building claiming to be a believer actually is one. We have had a number of people over the years that have taken advantage of our good will by claiming to be believers and then taking whatever money and handouts they can get before disappearing. We must be as Jesus commanded, shrewd as serpents and harmless as doves.
A humble mind - Peter says that we are to have humble minds. Do not for one second think this means that you don’t have to use your mind or that thinking and studying are bad things that make the mind arrogant. No, you are commanded to love the Lord God with all your mind, just as you are to love Him with all your heart, soul, and strength. You’ve gotta use that grey matter that God gave you. You need to study and learn everything you can, not just for your sake, but because you owe it to your Creator to give Him glory with your brain. So many in the church today have embraced this anti-intellectual mindset because they have somehow equated ignorance with humility. I encounter it all the time, of all places in the world of academia. But that is not what you are called to. You are called to a faithful and right knowledge of God. And here’s the interesting thing - the more you know of who God is and the more you rightly understand Him, the less and less arrogant you are going to become. Not because you’re achieving something, but rather because you are recognizing more and more clearly just how much you don’t deserve for Jesus to die for you. You want to talk about humbling, when you finally come to that place where you realize, I mean really realize just how inadequate and undeserving you are of God’s mercy it won’t just humble you, it will wreck you. Even the most nominal and stagnant “Christian” when they finally understand that transformational truth, they will weep like a baby. I don’t just mean a few tears, I mean they will ugly cry, water out the eyes, snot out the nose, hair and make up a mess - that kind of crying. That right knowledge of who we are will never let you be proud, because you recognize you have nothing to boast in save Jesus Christ.
Peter concludes before quoting the Psalm saying don’t repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling - rather bless as you have been blessed.
This is not a command to become a pacifist. Scripture nowhere commands you to do nothing when evil is done. You have a God-given image as a human being and you have the responsibility to care for and defend that image. No rather Peter is very specific about the words he chooses here. He says don’t repay evil with evil. When someone does you wrong, you have every right to pursue justice. If someone sins against you, you have every right to be angry and to pursue an apology and reconciliation. But you do not have a right to now do evil in return to that person. If someone steals from you, you have every right to take them to court and receive restitution, you do not have a right to go to their home and steal from them in return. Sin against you does not justify sin from you. Our mothers worded it a bit different when we were growing up but that had the same principle in mind when they said two wrong don’t make a.... right. It is not justice for you to sin against one who has sinned against you. It is not righteous to return evil for evil, but rather to pursue just punishment for those who wrong you. That is your right. But there is also something that we have as Christians which is far more powerful than our rights, we have the power from the Holy Spirit to on some occasions forgo our rights and forgive regardless of our rights. We have been blessed in this way and we are to bless in this way. If you are a Christian, you are forgiven. Though God has every right to crush you because of your sin against Him, He has forgiven you. He has given you not only mercy, but grace, showering upon you blessings and gifts, even the very presence of the Holy Spirit in your life. We have wronged Him, all of us, and in return for those who believe He gives gifts. That’s a love unlike any other, and it’s a love that Peter says we are to live in light of.
And today I’m here to share with you if you don’t know this love that forgives and empowers, that grants grace and gives gifts - you can know it. And the way you do is by knowing Jesus. If you want to know more about Him, come find me and lets talk. Or maybe today you are ready to finally submit to Christ as Lord and receive the gifts He gives. Today if that’s you we’re going to have a time for you to make that public declaration of belief and faith right now as we stand and sing together.
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