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.” – 1 Peter 3:8-12 ESV
Peter has been dealing with issues in the church as its members undergo persecution, endure suffering, deal with unbelievers, and handle relationships with their own family members who may not know the Lord. Now he addresses the entire congregation, giving them valuable insights into what their behavior should look like in the midst of all that they are experiencing. First of all, he tells them to have unity of mind. The Greek word Peter uses is ὁμόφρων (homophrōn) and it can be translated as “harmonious.” He wants them to learn how to live together in a harmonious and complementary way. Not only do they share a common faith in Christ, they enjoy a unified outlook on how that faith should change the way they live their lives. It should express itself in sympathy and love for one another. And sympathy doesn’t mean simply feeling sorry for the other person. It means “suffering or feeling the like with another.” Paul provides us with some insight into this very idea when he tells the believers in Rome, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight” (Romans 12:15-16 ESV). We are in this together. We are to share one another’s burdens, experience each other’s pain, and live in such harmony that we feel the pain of the other person as if it was ours. That requires that we be tenderhearted and compassionate. The hurts and heartaches of others must burden and bother us, and we must be willing to cry alongside them. Sometimes, what our brothers and sisters in Christ need most when they are suffering is our presence, not our words. They need to know we care, not how much Scripture we can quote. And behind all of this must lie a humble heart. It is impossible to live in harmony if you see yourself as somehow better than others. It will be difficult to relate to the suffering if you have an over-inflated view of yourself. The author of Hebrew reminds us, “Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body” (Hebrews 13:3 ESV). That will be impossible to pull off unless you live with a humble attitude that says, “there but for the grace of God, go I.”
As we live on this earth, we must do so in a way that reflects our new-found faith in Christ and our position as God’s sons and daughters. We are not to live like the world, with an attitude of payback and revenge. Instead, we are to bless those who try to do us harm. We are to love those who hate us and pray for those who attempt to hurt us. Peter says, “to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing” (1 Peter 3:9 ESV). Peter is not making this us. He is simply reiterating what he had heard from Jesus Himself.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers,i what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” – Matthew 5:43-48 ESV
Peter even appeals to the words of King David by quoting from one of his psalms.
What man is there who desires life
and loves many days, that he may see good?
Keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from speaking deceit.
Turn away from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it.
The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous
and his ears toward their cry.
The face of the Lord is against those who do evil. – Psalm 34:12-14 ESV
Our belief is to show up in our behavior. We have been called by God to live in a dramatically different way than the lost world around us. We cannot claim to be believers, yet act as if we are no different than those who do not know Christ. Our speech should be different. Our attitudes must be driven by our faith. Our hearts should reflect the love we have received from God by sending His Son to die on our behalf – while we were yet sinners. Obedience brings blessing. When we live according to God’s will, it not only pleases Him, it pleases Him to bless us. The words of the apostle Paul provide a great summation of this section of Peter’s letter.
And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. – 1 Thessalonians 5:14-15 ESV