The Recipe for Loving Your Life, Part 2 (1 Peter 3:8-12)

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Introduction

I invite you to turn with me in your Bibles back to the book of 1 Peter this morning for our second sermon from 1 Peter 3:8-12. If you do not have a Bible with you today, or if you’d like to follow along in the translation I will be preaching from, please make use of one of the pew Bibles where you can find this passage located on page 1015.

Now, last week I suggested that nearly every one of us wants to enjoy life and experience good days with our families while we are here on this earth. I also argued that there is nothing spiritual or special about seeking out pain and misery in life and that it makes no sense, therefore, for anyone to chase after a life of disappointment and frustration.

But, while there is nothing wrong with pursuing joy and happiness in our lives, we also cannot deny that most people in this country have all sorts of messed up ideas about what “The Good Life” really is, and how we can get there. And eventually, what many people end up discovering, is that “The Good Life” they have been chasing, is not so good after all once they arrive. And, this is why, so many people who seem to have at it all in this world—money, possessions, fame, and power—often choose to end their lives prematurely. And this is why in a nation with more prosperity than any other nation in the world, we are experiencing epidemic levels of depression and other related mental health issues. Yes, we are finding out what Israel’s King Solomon found out, which was that money, possessions, women, and power are not part of the recipe for a life full of good days after all. And many of us, like Solomon, end up hating the very life we had been chasing after for so long. In fact, Solomon, the wisest, richest, and most respected man to ever live, went so far as to say that he not only hated his life (Ecclesiastes 2:17), but that he also envied the dead and thought that the most fortunate people of all are those who had not yet come into existence (Ecclesiastes 4:2-3).

So, the truth is, there are millions of people in this country who are chasing after a lie. They are chasing after a lie they believe will give them happiness and fulfillment. And that is why, in our sermon last week, we began answering the question: What are the ingredients in the recipe for a life you can love, one that is full of good days? In other words, what is the recipe for the so-called Good Life? And this morning, we are going to continue answering that question. So, if you haven’t already, turn with me in your Bibles to 1 Peter 3, and follow along as I read from verses 8-12. Peter says,

8 Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. 9 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.

10 For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; 11 let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. 12 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)

Living With Believers (v. 8)

Now, as I said last week, verses 8 and 9 from this passage contain essential ingredients to the recipe that will satisfy the inner desire we all have “to love life and see good days.” As we saw in the previous sermon, in verse 8 Peter tells us about the way we ought to conduct ourselves within the church and how we ought to relate to other believers. But in verse 9, which we are going to cover in this sermon, Peter’s focus is on how we ought to conduct ourselves out in the world, and specifically how we ought to respond to those who persecute and ridicule us for our faith. So, if we want “to love life and see good days” Peter says we must relate in a certain way with those who are within the church, and we must relate in certain ways with those who are outside the church.

Now, to review what we discussed last week, regarding our relationships within the church, Peter says, we must all “have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.” In other words, if we want “to love life and see good days,” we must begin by developing and maintaining happy and healthy relationships with other believers. And this will mean focusing in on these five different areas.

First, we must commit ourselves to having “unity of mind” within the Church. Now, as we said last week, this doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything, but it does mean that concerning our faith, and the essentials of it, we have to be on the same page. Because it is this “unity of mind” about the main things that keeps us from dividing and arguing about inconsequential things—which Christians are far too good at doing, and which is why so many churches split and divide over things as silly as the color of the carpet.

The second area of focus with regard to our Christian relationships is that we must learn how to show sympathy toward others. Which means that we must care deeply about “the needs, joys, and sorrows”1 of other Christians—even more than we care about our own needs, joys, and sorrows. As people who are united together with other Christians into one body, we ought to experience and share in the pain and suffering of our brothers and sisters and learn what it means to hurt with them. That’s what it means to show sympathy.

The third area of focus we looked at last week with regard to our Christian relationships is that we must feel and display brotherly love for one another. As I said last week, when we were born again through faith in Jesus Christ, we were born into a new family, and we have new familial relationships with other believers. And what that means is that you have to love your brothers and sisters in Christ even if you don’t like them. Why? Well, because now we are all part of the same family. And because we are now in the same family, we show brotherly love toward one another, and we do not abandon our family over small disagreements.

Peter’s fourth area of focus in verse 8 with regard to our Christian relationships is that we must develop a tender heart toward other Christians. Remember, God has been kind to us, he has shown us tenderhearted compassion by sending his one and only son to save us, and we ought to turn around and show that same tenderhearted compassion toward our brothers and sisters in Christ. Not because they deserve it—that is not why God has shown us tenderhearted compassion—but because God desires it.

Now, the fifth, and final, area of focus with regard to our Christian relationships is that we must develop humble minds—which, as I said last week, is the opposite of prideful minds. We need to have minds that do not always demand to have our own way. We need minds that are willing to admit when we are wrong or have treated someone unfairly. If we let pride rule our hearts, it will destroy our relationship with others, and might even destroy our church. That is undoubtedly what Satan is working toward, and he has used human pride as his primary weapon in this battle ever since he first started messing with human beings back in Genesis 3.

So, these are the five things we must focus on in our relationships with other believers if we want “to love life and see good days.” We must be committed to developing happy and healthy relationships within the church, because if our church relationships are all messed up—if there is constant strife and tension in that area of our lives—it is going to be difficult to love life and see good days. So we must all make a concerted effort in this area—for our own sake and for the sake of others.

Living With Unbelievers (v. 9)

But, if our goal as sojourners and exiles in this world is not to withdraw from society, but to live in such a way in front of society that observing unbelievers will be drawn to the one, true God through faith in Jesus Christ, then we can’t just lock ourselves up in the church building with other Christians and avoid interaction with the rest of the world, can we? So what this means, is that in addition to the instruction Peter has given us on how we ought to conduct ourselves with other believers, we are also going to need some instruction on how to relate to those who are outside the church as well. We are going to have to know how to interact and get along with them too, because doing so will not only help us fulfill our disciple-making mission, but it will also help us enjoy the life we are now living. And so, in verse 9, Peter gives us some instruction in this area.

You see, the truth is, as much as we struggle to relate appropriately with our fellow believers—who are often very different from us—we probably struggle even more trying to understand how we ought to relate to the unbelieving world around us. And, as I said last week, sometimes we get confused and think that the war is against them, while the truth is, the war God wants us fighting as Christians, is not against the world, but for the world. You see, you can’t be in a war against those who you desire to save. And as followers of Jesus, our desire should be for “all people to be saved” as they “come to the knowledge of the truth” about Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 2:4). And that cannot happen if we are fighting a war against the world.

Friends, unbelievers are not our enemies, they are prisoners of war who need to be rescued. And we need to understand this. You see, Jesus came to deliver them from their bondage, and he has sent us out on a mission to set them free. And though they might fight and resist us in that rescue attempt—just like a person who is drowning often does—we cannot give up on them, and we certainly don’t fight back. That is what Peter is trying to explain in this verse. As Christians, we never, ever retaliate—we don’t repay evil for evil, and we don’t respond to reviling or ridicule with reviling of our own.

But, be honest with me for a minute. Is this how individuals in the modern evangelical movement normally operate? When we are attacked, do we keep our mouths shut, or do we fight back? Be honest. What do we do? What does the people in this country see when we are persecuted and attacked?

Well, the truth is, we are not very good at resisting the temptation to retaliate. When we are attacked, we attack right back—and we sometimes do it on television for the whole world to see. Yes, I understand, we do it in attempt to maintain our ground and standing in society. But what we often fail to realize is that while we might be maintaining our ground in the short-term, we are making our mission to save those who are perishing more difficult in the long term. Because, when unbelievers see Christians as people who are just as vindictive and retaliatory as the rest of the world, it makes it difficult for them to see that there is something special about Jesus and his followers.

So, in verse 9, Peter helps us understand how we ought to conduct ourselves out in the world, and specifically how we ought to respond to those who persecute us and ridicule us for our faith. And what he teaches us is that instead of responding in evil ways when we have been treated in evil ways, we respond by blessing those who have treated us inappropriately. And instead of reviling or ridiculing those who have reviled and ridiculed us because of our faith in Christ, we bless those who are persecuting us.

Why? Well for two reasons. And the first reason is that this is what we have been called to do as Christians. Peter says, “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called.” So, this is part of what it means to be like Christ. We are called and expected to bless those who persecute us—just like Jesus did. That is the first reason we bless those who persecute us.

But the second reason we act in this way that is contrary to the way the rest of the world operates is because we know that by doing so, we will obtain a blessing from God—both in this life and in the life to come. Do you see that at the end of verse 9? Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the wicked actions of others against us are going to cease, but it does mean that when we bless others—even while they are persecuting us—that God will, in one way or another, bless us in return.

Now, it is no surprise that Peter would give us this sort of instruction in his recipe for experiencing a life we can love, one that is full of good days. It is no surprise because, Peter’s teacher, Jesus Christ, taught him the same thing. So if you are wondering just how far we are supposed to go with this? Just how much evil and ridicule Peter expect us to endure before we stand up for ourselves? Well, listen to what Jesus has to say about this principle of non-retaliation in the greatest sermon ever preached. In his Sermon on the Mount, from Matthew 5, Jesus said:

38 You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. (Matthew 5:38–42 ESV)

And he went to say,

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 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. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? (Matthew 5:43–47 ESV)

Friends, if we are going to win the unbelieving world for Christ, that means we are going to have to be willing to set aside our rights and endure mistreatment for the sake of their souls. And this should not be a surprise to us as followers of Jesus—because that is exactly what he did. Peter told us as much in 1 Peter 2:23 when he said, “When [Jesus] was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” And what this means, is that if we are going to follow Jesus, we are going to have to learn to do the same.

So, friends, let me ask you this morning? Do you really want to follow Jesus? Not just to be saved from your sins, and to avoid hell, and to have eternal life. But do you really want to follow Jesus, right here and right now? Because, if so, that means being willing to take up your cross and being willing to endure the harsh and unfair treatment that he endured on this earth while keeping your mouth shut. That is what it means to follow Jesus. He said, “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20 ESV). And what we have to learn, as twenty-first century Christians who are living in a place where we are taught to fight for our rights, is that we must be willing to set aside our rights for the sake of those who are perishing. We must be willing to resist fighting back even when it feels like we should. Again, that is exactly what Jesus did.

So, let me ask you again. Do you really want to follow Jesus? Because the truth is, doing so will make you, in many ways, about as un-American as you can be. You see, the truth is, as Christians, we are not free. While we are living in the so-called “Land of the Free,” we are slaves of God who have forfeited our personal rights in order to submit to Jesus. Jesus is our master; Jesus is our Lord. And Jesus has called us to follow in his footsteps, which means that we must humble ourselves and take on the form of a servant, just as he did (Philippians 2:7).

The Apostle Paul, says something similar to what Peter is trying to communicate here. In his first letter to the Corinthians, in verses 12 and 13 from the fourth chapter, Paul tells us how ought to respond when we are reviled and persecuted. He says,

12 When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; 13 when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things. (1 Corinthians 4:12–13 ESV)

So let me ask you again: Do you still want to follow Jesus? Are you willing to be refuse and scum in the eyes of the world? Well, if so, then don’t be surprised when you are treated this way. And don’t retaliate when it happens. “But on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called.” That this what Peter tells us in verse 9.

When we are treated in evil ways, we do not repay that evil with more evil. When we are reviled and ridiculed for our faith, we do not return that reviling and ridicule with some of our own. But on the contrary, we bless those who persecute us and pray for their salvation. This is our calling as Christians—to pray, as Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34 ESV). And to pray as the first Christian martyr, Stephen, prayed, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them,” (Acts 7:60 ESV) as he was being stoned to death.

So, how far are we to take this, you ask? Well, we are to take it that far. We have a Savior who suffered and died. And, if we are going to follow him, we too must be willing to suffer and die for the sake of others. That is what it means to follow Jesus, my friends. And every one of us has to make up our minds this morning if we are ready and willing to do that.

Now, fortunately, none of us in this room will probably ever have to die for our faith. But, we must be willing to die to ourselves by setting aside our own rights and desires, so that we can live like Christ and live for Christ—which means being willing to give ourselves for the sake of others. That’s what it means to follow Jesus. And that’s what it means to not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but to bless those who do those things to us. That is our calling as Christians. That is what Peter wants us to understand in verse 9.

So again, our struggle isn’t against unbelievers. This is not an us versus them thing. We must not wage war against the world—certainly not if we want to win them to Christ. But, our struggle as Christians is to refuse to repay evil for evil. Our struggle is to genuinely desire God’s blessing on those who ridicule and persecute us. That is our struggle. It is a struggle to continue seeking peace when everything within us wants to fight. And, it is not enough, to simply keep your mouth shut when everything in you wants to retaliate. But, if we are going to be obedient to what the Bible says here, we must also be able to walk away from a situation where we have been ridiculed or persecuted for our faith, and pray for God’s blessings upon those who have persecuted us. And that is particularly hard. So hard that I am not sure it would be possible without the help of the Holy Spirit.

Conclusion

So, if we want “to love life and see good days” we must relate in a certain way with those who are within the church, and we must relate in certain ways with those who are outside the church. We cannot treat others the way they are treating us if we expect them to notice that there is something different about us because of our faith in Jesus Christ. We cannot expect to draw people to the one, true God through faith in Jesus Christ if what they observe in our lives is a tit for tat sort of retaliation for the evil that is done against us. What they need to see, is a Jesus-like response to the ridicule and persecution we face in this life.

And so, as believers, we must study the life of Jesus. We must pay attention to the way he silently went to the cross. We must pay attention to the way he handled himself when he stood on trial before Pilate. We must pay attention to his humility and his trust in God to right the wrongs of this world. And we must pay attention to the desire he had that all people would come to God through faith in him. And then, we must go and mimic those desires and behaviors for the sake of those who are perishing. That may not result in a life you can brag about on Instagram and Facebook, but it will result in a life you can love, one that is full of good days, because, according to the Bible, it will be a life that is blessed by God.

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  1. Thomas R. Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude, ed. E. Ray Clendenen, vol. 37 of The New American Commentary. Accordance electronic ed. (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003), 163. ↩︎