Sunday 11 April
1 Peter 3:8-15
Called to be United
I had a massive breakdown in a relationship this week – and before your mind wanders, it was not with another person.
When we jump into our car we have faith that it will get us to our destination – that the steering, the engine and the brakes will work properly, and when they do, man and machine are in harmony – at least usually. So, I was on the M8 doing 70 mph in the outside lane when I noticed up ahead the traffic in the outside and second outer lanes was braking to a halt. So, I pushed on my brake pedal and it went all the way to the floor... Shock hit me and I had visions of who I might run into to, to stop my car. Normal harmony had been broken in an instant, but I decided to attempt to repair it. So I used the gears to shed speed off the car, I used the mirrors to work my way to the two inside lanes dodging between other vehicles and then tested to see if I had any handbrake – and I did. Yes I was shattered but thankful that it happened where it did, and that I managed to escape from a far worse outcome. A ruptured brake pipe was quickly replaced – but our unity is not yet back to where it was before this incident. It is not nice when relationships are not in harmony and that is every bit as true between people too.
We are back today on Peter’s first letter today and immediately we see him using the word finally, though there is still another 2 chapters after this one. He is teaching us how to live the Christian life in the midst of all kinds of suffering and confusion with fellow believers and even with some people who are not nice. So this finally is only the end of this section. He says, “all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called.”
So, Peter is calling all Christians to live in harmony with each other in this section of his letter on living the Christian life. Earlier he calls for us to show our love with holiness driving our actions in chapter 1:13, Having our minds properly prepared for action, having self-control, living with hope in the grace which Jesus has revealed to us, and in essence to be holy, as God is holy. Then in chapter 2:11 we are called to “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see our good deeds and glorify God.”
Therefore in all our relationships we are charged to do our best to live harmoniously and well.
This section though begins with relationships between Christians.
Peter in chapter 2:1 listed five damaging traits to relationships:
Here in chapter 3 he gives us five encouragements that enable us to live well as Christians. Let’s walk through together them in more detail now.
1) In verse 9, the first is harmony, which means being agreeable and driven by godly thinking. The Greek word that aids this is metanoia – in essence it means when we become Christians, we have a change of heart and mind making us more Christ-like. Paul teaches about this in Romans 12, “being transformed by the renewing of your minds”.
Of course the perfect example is Jesus who was at one with the Father.
In music, harmony does not mean all the notes are the same, but together they make something musically which resonates much more beautifully.
2) The second positive trait is sympathy. Sympathy is getting alongside someone and feeling their misfortune or sharing in their joy. It is sincere and is driven by the desire to bless the other person. It is the “rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep” caring that is deep and most helpful.
So, when we are living in harmony in Christ, the Spirit prompts us to care and get alongside others.
3) The third trait is that we are to love as brothers and sisters in Christ. Sibling love is a connection of our DNA and even although we may at times disagree or fall out with our sibling, if they were in need and we could help, decent siblings would do what they could. We should care for others as though we needed the same care and affection that we will exhibit. It is the principle of treating others as we would want to be treated
Being Christians gives us the biggest family ever – our spiritual DNA becomes very similar indeed.
4) The fourth is the call to be compassionate. Compassion adds more to having sympathy. It is about action. e.g. Making and arriving with a meal when a family is bereft of a loved one. A number of you did this for the manse family last year. It can also be simpler – someone is crying and you give them a hanky or they have a cut in their knee and you clean it out and stick on a plaster. But the second part of this word – ‘passion’ speaks of the drive behind compassion – it is driven by a good urge to benefit the other person.
5) The fifth but by no means least is humility. Humility is the willingness to keep being teachable. Martin Luther once said, “God created the world out of nothing, and as long as we are nothing, he can make something out of us.” Again, Paul in Romans 12:3 says “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgement.”
So after these traits for Christians in the wider Christian family Peter now talks about relationships with people who are non-Christian and/or antagonistic towards Christians.
Linking again to Paul’s words in Romans 12 we are told to “bless those who persecute you and not to repay evil with evil” and verse 9 here echoes this in Peter’s letter too. A blessing from God is promised if we manage this.
Peter then quotes from Psalm 34 and focusses in on our speech. Of course like us, God has both eyes and ears. Therefore seeking peace and speaking with integrity and kindness is likely to be best and most pleasing to God as well as to the people we are engaging with. It then explains that God listens to those who speak and act as Peter teaches rather than those who do evil verse 12.
Choosing good rather than evil or harm for others is a must for Christians to be decent witnesses – even in the face of those who are obnoxious towards us verse 14.
There are times when we all will suffer and at times unfairly - even for doing the right things.
In conclusion then “The LORD watches over the righteous”. He sees what everyone says and does, but He watches over those who do rightly and walk humbly with their God and it pleases Him.
Pray for those who persecute you. Try to bring calm to anyone who is angry or speak gently and graciously to an aggressor.
I have been challenged by Peter’s words and hope you have been too. I guess like me in some of these things you will be doing well, yet there may be one or two that need a bit more work. The most important thing with God’s word is that it is good for correction and reproof – so we really must act upon it. I hope that there are some items that we can all take away and pray about this week and that especially in our church people will notice a harmonious loving family that greatly blesses one another and many others too… Amen