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Relationship with Fellow Believers (3:8-12)

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As people we often have trouble getting along with one another. We think differently. We have different likes and dislikes. We have different temperaments. And so, whenever we come into contact with other people there is the potential for trouble and conflict. The followers of Christ face the same problems and temptations as everyone else and sometimes it is difficult for them as well to get along with other people – even with other believers. But though it may be difficult, the goal of every Christian should be to live peaceably with everyone. In view of this the Apostle Peter gives instructions about proper behavior to both wives and husbands in chapter 3 of his first letter. If instructions about how to live with those in the family are necessary, they are even more necessary for getting along with fellow believers who are outside the immediate family. In verse 8 Peter writes, “Finally, be all like-minded, compassionate, loving as brothers, tenderhearted, courteous,”

Does the phrase “like minded” mean that the followers of Christ are to be exactly alike? Are they supposed to suppress their individuality? Not at all. For in chapter 4 Peter goes on to say that God has given the followers of Jesus different spiritual gifts. Not everyone has the same gift, and the different gifts are used in various ways in God’s service. From this we see that following Jesus does not destroy individuality but that our different personalities are united towards achieving the same goal. What then does Peter mean when he urges his readers to be “like minded?” From what he has already said in his letter, it is safe to say that Peter means that the followers of Christ should have the same view of Jesus, of sin and of the glorious future that awaits a Christian. When fellow believers are in agreement in these areas, then it is easier for them to get along with one another.

The rest of this verse needs little explanation. Everyone knows what it means to “compassionate, loving as brothers, tenderhearted, courteous.” The difficulty is not in understanding, but in doing what Peter says. But this raises another question. It is obvious that if every follower of Jesus followed Peter’s instructions there would be few opportunities for problems to arise. And those problems which did arise would soon be settled. But the followers of Christ are not perfect. They too, occasionally succumb to temptation. What then is the proper response when we have been wronged by a fellow believer? Peter answers this question when he writes in verse 9, “not rendering evil for evil, or insult for insult; but instead blessing; knowing that to this were you called, that you may inherit a blessing.”

This is not an easy thing to do. It is natural to want revenge and to take justice into our own hands. Are we willing to put our feelings aside and obey? Many say that they are ready to lay down their very lives for Christ, yet are not willing to follow this instruction that Christ has given through Peter. While being willing to sacrifice our lives for Christ is commendable, what He really wants is an obedient heart. As Samuel the prophet said to king Saul, “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry...” (1 Samuel 15:22-23 NIV) When we refuse to follow Peter’s instructions we are not acting out of love for God, but out of pride.

Peter writes that the reason the followers of Christ should give blessing in return for insult is that they have been ‘called’ to inherit a blessing. This is the fourth time that Peter has said that the followers of Christ have been called. (1:16, 2:9, 2:21) This is a reminder that it was not us who reached out to God, but that it was God who initiated our salvation. As the apostle John wrote, “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son as the atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:10) In the same way the followers of Christ should reach out in love to those who insult them.

Peter’s words also remind us of the promise that God made to Abraham, “I will make of you a great nation. I will bless you and make your name great. You will be a blessing.” (Genesis 12:2) It is appropriate that those who have the same faith in God as Abraham, and who share in the promises God made to Abraham, should also be a blessing.

Peter reinforces his instructions to the followers of Christ that they should live in harmony with one another and answer insult with blessing by quoting from Psalm 34, verses 12 through 16: “For, “He who would 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 open to their prayer; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”” (1 Peter 3:10-12)

This passage puts Peter’s command into perspective. It first describes a goal that we all want, that is to love life and see good days. It next gives three specific actions that we must do in order to achieve this goal. They are to keep our tongues from evil, our lips from deceitful speech, and to turn from evil and do good. It is worth noting that the phrase “turn away from evil and do good” is the biblical definition of repentance. The motive for doing these things is to seek peace. Then, the attitude with which we should do this is mentioned: that is our attitude should be one of righteousness. And, finally, this results in God being attentive to the prayers of the follower of Christ who obeys Peter’s command from the heart. In chapter 3, verse 7 Peter had indicated that the prayers of a Christian husband would be hindered if he failed to treat his wife respectfully. Here we see that being out of harmony with or treating another believer badly will also hinder the prayers of a follower of Christ. Every follower of Christ must make a choice. When we are treated badly by another believer will we take matters into our own hands and so cut ourselves off from receiving the answers to our prayers? Or will we humbly obey Peter’s instruction to repay insult with blessing and enjoy God’s blessing as a result?