Reader: “Search for peace,”
Response: “and work to maintain it.”
Scripture: 1 Peter 3:8-18a
Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will grant you his blessing. For the Scriptures say,
“If you want to enjoy life
and see many happy days,
keep your tongue from speaking evil
and your lips from telling lies.
Turn away from evil and do good.
Search for peace, and work to maintain it.
The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right,
and his ears are open to their prayers.
But the Lord turns his face
against those who do evil.”
Now, who will want to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats. Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ. Remember, it is better to suffer for doing good, if that is what God wants, than to suffer for doing wrong! Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God.
Reader: The word of the Lord
Response: Thanks be to God.
Peter, who was not a shy person, known for speaking before thinking at times, writes this very articulate portion of his letter in giving instructions regarding relationships to fellow believers as well as unbelievers. I have a feeling Peter learned this the hard way. Note the words he uses here. Be united in thought, sympathize, love, be tender-hearted, . . . keep a humble attitude. Are those words you normally associate with Peter? The Holy Spirit clearly transformed his life.
Having been in a long period of very stressful months due to a troublesome disease and rancorous politics, we have observed plenty of occasions where brothers and sisters in the Lord have hardly reflected Peter’s words towards each other. Retaliation with insults have been far too frequent. Blessing those with different opinions has been all too rare. This model of self-righteous Christian interaction has frankly been embarrassing for our faith. Peter quotes David’s psalm (Ps. 34:12-16) for wise counsel. “Keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies. . . Search for peace and work to maintain it.”
It is all too easy for us to think of God as being far away looking after the universe and not actually watching individual people in real time . . . like now! Yet, Peter writes, “the eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right and his ears are open to their prayers. But the Lord turns his face against those who do evil.” He watches those people too!
In the Scriptures, the description of the “Lord turning his face toward you” is a sign of his favor, his blessing (Numbers 6:24-26). It’s the reverse of “turning your back on someone” as a sign of disfavor and abandonment. Remember Moses coming down from Mt. Sinai with his face shining so bright? Same idea. Notice that Peter is very realistic. People are not always nice, even believers. So Peter’s words are to bear the abuse rather than striking back. God sees what happened and is pleased when you don’t retaliate. Worship the Lord as the Lord of your life. Your conduct can be a beautiful witness to God’s grace in your life. Be ready to bear witness to Christ with gentleness and respect to the other person. Suffering for doing good, if that is what God wants, is better than suffering for shooting off at your mouth and bearing the consequences of foolishness. Peter should know! It would be good if we could do some healing of our tongues in the coming months.
Music: “The Corinthian Song” Sam Robson Beautiful and remarkable!
O Everlasting God, let the light of Thine eternity now fall upon my passing days. O holy God, let the light of Thy perfect righteousness fall upon my sinful ways. O most merciful God, let the light of Thy life pierce to the most secret corners of my heart and overcome the darkness of sin within me. Am I living as my conscience approves? Am I demanding of others a higher standard of conduct than I demand of myself? Am I taking a less charitable view of the failings of my neighbor than I am of my own? Am I standing in public for principles which I do not practise in private? Let my answer before Thee be truthful, O God. Do I ever allow the thought of my own gain to take precedence over the interests of the community? To which do I give the benefit of the doubt, when my course is not clear? Is the sympathy I show to others who are in trouble commensurate with the pity I would expend on myself if the same things happened to me? Let my answer before Thee be truthful, O God. Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen. ―John Baillie, A Diary of Private Prayer, p.99