The Ambassador and His Relationships (1 Pet. 3:8-12)
1 Peter is about living hope. Not only is living hope to be celebrated (1 Pet. 1:1-12) and lived out (1 Pet. 1:13-2:3), it needs to be carried to others, like an ambassador representing and carrying the identity, ideals and principles of his country (1 Pet. 2:4-3:12). What does it mean to carry this living hope as an ambassador of Jesus Christ? (2 Cor. 5:20). We saw the major theme that Peter has been communicating has been through submission, even if by doing so you suffer. We looked at submission to human authority (1 Pet. 2:13-17), in the workplace (1 Pet. 2:18-20), following Jesus as the supreme example of submitting under suffering (1 Pet. 2:21-25) and then, submission in marriage (1 Pet. 3:1-7).
Now Peter starts off with “finally.” He is summing up the current section which started back in 1 Pet. 2:11. He now addresses the need for EVERYONE (all of you) to carry out your living hope with others in relationships, both in Christian community and outside of community. So he’s talking not just to employers or mates, but everyone. Basically as he quotes Psalm 34 here, he is saying: “Do you want to truly experience God’s best for you?” Notice: “whoever desires to love life and see good days.” And “you may obtain a blessing.” And “the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are open to their prayer.” Do you want to be blessed? Do you want God’s eyes on you and His ears perking up to hear you pray? You want the blessing of God Himself upon your life? You want that sense that you are exactly where God is and you are experiencing all that He has for you? I don’t know who would not want that right? Isn’t it amazing that Peter can talk about “good days” and “loving life” when all these readers had only bad days and life was so hard with all of the persecution? Sure he can be talking about Heaven, but I believe we can experience His goodness on a bad day not because of it, but in spite of it. This can only be because true life and true love comes from what God gives, not what the circumstances bring. Do you want to experience the blessing that God has for you despite what your circumstances are? We all want that, but we don’t want God’s conditions. Here Peter says you can experience good days and a love for life and experience the blessing of God by cultivating Christ-honoring relationships.
Oh man, that’s how? Don’t you realize I would be a really good Christian if it wasn’t for the people at this church? Did you know that the real reason that Anthony and Vivi got a dog was because the more they got to know people here, the more they were like, “We need to get a dog! It’s a lot easier relating to him than them!” Just kidding! But just as much as we focus on our personal walk with Christ, the truth of Scripture tells us that we need community to grow and blessing often comes from walking together in community.
I was watching the news this week and it was announced that Anne Rice, a popular author, who was once atheist and turned Catholic was now renouncing the institution of Christianity. Her reasoning has been mostly due to the hypocrisy of the Christians. She says she is still a Christian, but is going to be one by herself. I don’t know how long that is going to last. If you are going to love Christ, you have to love His body, warts and all. We cannot worship a decapitated Christ! She cannot read the Bible and not see that God’s growth plan is to save people and put them in community where they learn to become more like Jesus Christ and use their gifts to His glory.
But I can understand the nasty taste of hypocrisy that draws people away from Christ and churches. This is the major reasoning of most people who do not want to be Christians. They will tell you, “If it weren’t for the Christians, I would be a Christian!” Inconsistent lifestyles damage the power of our witness. And especially when we cannot love our own, we damage the name of Jesus Christ. What a joke would it be if we were ambassadors of another country and we are teaching people about the peace and love we experience in our country only for them to see us bickering and fighting with each other? Ambassadors fighting ambassadors! So Peter tells us ambassadors to make sure we are living right with other ambassadors and that is where we experience true blessing. So how can we have relationships here at Living Hope that thrive and thus experience the blessing of God? So let’s start with this thought:
I. Relationships thrive when we are cultivating Christ-like character (1 Pet. 3:8)
So you want the blessing God’s way? Work on these five character traits. One commentator makes an interesting observation when he says, “These are not virtues chosen at random. Like the fingers of the hand, they radiate from one centre and work together. The key to them all is the love of grace: they reflect the grace, love, and compassion of Jesus Christ. The teaching and example of Jesus have become the teaching of the apostles.” These five qualities are really the attitude of Jesus Christ radiating from your heart into your relationships. I am going to put them into four sub-points, since I think “sympathy” and “a tender heart” go together. Let’s look at them one by one:
a) Unity of mind
ESV has “have unity of mind.” NIV says, “Live in harmony.” NLT says, “Be of one mind.” NASB says “Be harmonious.” The actual word is a “compound word [which]…literally means “same think.” Believers are to live in harmony together, maintaining a common commitment to the truth that produces an inward unity of heart with one another.” Be likeminded is the idea. This is all over the New Testament. Romans 12:16: “Live in harmony with one another.” 1 Cor. 1:10: “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.” Phil. 1:27: “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.” The same thought is repeated again from Phil. 2:1-2. In fact, Jesus’ heart is for unity: “that they may be perfectly one so that the world may know you sent me…” (John 17:21-23).
Often Christians think “likeminded” is only if we agree with each other, i.e. think like I do. He is not referring to agreeing with each other’s opinions, but having the same attitude. So obviously it is difficult for you to think like me and for me to think like you, but if both of us are thinking like Christ, we are automatically like-minded. This is why Paul says, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:5). Bob Deffinbaugh says, “Perhaps the best illustration would be orchestra made up of many different musicians, with a wide variety of instruments, but many different parts to be played even by the same kind of instrument. In a good orchestra, every member plays the same song, and all follow the leadership of one conductor. So it should be in the church. We all have different stations in life, different gifts, different ministries; but we have all embraced the same gospel, trusting in the same Savior, and following His leadership through His Word and His Spirit.” You can’t have an orchestra by yourself. God makes His best music with community. He is not big on solos. Good music or if I can use this word, good harmony, is produced when we are all focused on the same song on the conductor, working together, though we may have different tastes and gifting and opinions. So unity is not uniformity. God is not asking us to be clones of one another. He is asking us to be clones of Jesus Christ.
Let me make some quick observations about unity. Augustine says, “With the essentials, have unity. With the non-essentials, have liberty, but in all things, have charity.” We need to be unified on the essentials. What are the essentials? Don’t you wish the Lord had a list? Well, I think He does! Eph. 4:1-5. These are the essentials. We are to be unified on them. With the non-essential stuff (and we can go on and on about things Christians fight about), we are called to have liberty. Liberty means don’t make a big deal about it. Don’t die over it. Let it go. And with all things, have charity, or love, which Peter will say as well. If we want the blessing of God for this body, it comes with having a unity of mind.
Here is what I have been learning about this. Unity comes when I personally sacrifice. I have to give up some stuff. I have to give up the fact that I do not get along with everyone’s personality type. I give up the fact that not everyone will have the same opinion as me on any non-essential topic. Some people are pot stirrers, some are storm-stillers and others are in between. We need pot-stirrers and we need storm-stillers, but if you are a pot-stirrer, don’t be one all the time. Remember the four guys who brought their paralyzed friend through the roof in Mark 2? What if all four were different heights? What if one guy was 6’4” and another guy was 5’2”? The taller guy would have to bend a little, while the little guy had to stretch a little. They cannot be concerned about how tall or short the other one is, because fighting over that would defeat the purpose in helping their friend get to Jesus. He would fall off the mat! And we, Living Hope, if we want to be people who bring others to Jesus, we have to bend and stretch a little for the sake of unity and the sake of the gospel.
b) Sympathy and Tender Heart
I am going to merge “sympathy” and “tender heart” here, since they are very similar. Secondly, “sympathy” means “a sincere ‘feeling for and with’ the needs of others.” It is a “…readiness to rejoice with those who rejoice and to mourn with those who mourn.” Jesus is said to be a high priest who “sympathizes with our weaknesses” (Heb. 4:15). The idea is He enters in fully. He moves to act and to minister to us.
The idea is empathy though the word “sympathy” is used. Grant Richison says, “Empathy is not pity. Sympathy simply feels for someone else. Empathy attempts to identify with the other’s need and meet it. God wants Christians to identify with fellow Christians in sadness or joy (Romans 12:10,15). Empathy is not feeling sorry for someone but doing something to help them.” It is not that you understand what the others feel, but that you care about it. You enter in and suffer with them. This was so crucial for this suffering community to suffer together. “Well,” some say, “I don’t know what to say!” It is not about what to say, but being there and stepping into someone’s life.
Notice “tender heart.” This is literally, “have good bowels” because the Greeks believed that was where your deepest emotions like anger, joy, hate, mercy, etc. come from. Again, this is similar to sympathy. It is “feeling affectionately, compassionately, and deeply for someone else.” Christians are to be emotionally involved with each other. They are quick to feel and show emotion to one another. The opposite of these qualities would be uncaring, aloof, disinterested, self-absorbed, selfish, distant, etc. And a lot of this is because we become numb. We hear every day about a natural disaster killing hundreds, sometimes thousands, of people or a roadside bomb doing the same, and we become numb to it. We must guard our hearts from being hard-hearted and numb!
Deffinbaugh adds, “If “sympathetic” refers to our commitment to know how others are doing, “kindhearted” refers to our emotional response to the state of others. This characteristic is prominent in the life and ministry of our Lord (Matt. 9:36; 14:14).” This is not just for the pastor to do, all Christians are called to do this. I am thankful for Tracey and the caring team who do a great job in taking care of us like this, but it is everybody’s job! By the way, you can always talk to her in ways you can participate!
Did you know that this Greek word, translated as “a tender heart” later became used to describe courage? It takes courage to be sympathetic and have a tender heart! Are you sensitive to what is going on around you at Living Hope? Or are you indifferent? So often we do not let truth influence our emotions. We let our emotions influence truth. Godly emotions come from a mind that submits to the Word of God. I don’t wait to empathize until I have feelings of empathy. I lay aside self and move and enter into someone’s life who is carrying a heavy load because God’s word tells me so and trust God with feelings.
Some of you may remember the young couple that showed up at our church one day. They had a lot of needs! But God was stretching us and I think I started to realize what true ministry was about. Jenny and I had the privilege of spending a lot of time with them. And I know some of you reached out to them as well. I can tell you from our experience that feelings of sympathy and tender heartedness were not always there! They were difficult people. And I thought I had a tender heart and compassion for people until I met them! But at one point, they left to Michigan and the girl said to me, “Is there a church like yours we can contact there?” You know, I would not trade that for anything in the world! I have not heard from them, but I can tell you, that God grew in us a heart of compassion for people that was not there before. But it didn’t happen when we were sitting around talking about it. It happens when you risk and put yourself out there and let God shape your heart!
c) Brotherly love
Did you notice that the first and last go together and the second and fourth go together? Whenever a Biblical author does that (it’s called chiasm), he wants you to focus on the middle word, which here is “brotherly love.” We talked a lot about loving the people of God earnestly in a previous message that went over 1 Pet. 1:22. He’s going to say it again in 1 Pet. 4:8. Love is the belt that ties all of these attitudes together. The word “brother” in Greek means “one born from the same womb.” We are to love our Christian brothers and sisters because we are all “born from the same womb.” He is appealing again to the fact that we are “born again” to a Father who put us in His family. People in families fight with each other and sometimes they fight for each other. News flash: We will fight with each other because we are family too! But I pray that will not keep you away from church, because you are overwhelmed by the fact that there were far too many times we have fought for each other!
d) Humble Mind
If self-love is the poison for relationships, humility is the antidote. It is not to think less of ourselves, but to think of ourselves less. Actually, it is not to think of ourselves at all. It is the one virtue that when you think you have it, you lose! It is to lift others up. It stems from the understanding that we are mere stewards of everything we have, not managers. It means when I am criticized, I am not quick to justify myself or blame others. It means I take the initiative for the purposes of reconciliation. It means your time is more important than mine. It means your needs are more important than mine. In sum, it means being like Jesus! As my professor at Wheaton College used to say, “You cannot be a proud follower of a humble Savior.”
Do you want God to bless you? Cultivate Christ-like character in relationships. Let’s put it all together. This will be true of all relationships whether at church, accountability partners or marriage. The three building blocks for any successful relationship (and 2 of the three are found here) is honesty, humility and compassion. You need all three. Honesty without humility and compassion is brutality. And humility and compassion without honesty is hypocrisy. Here Peter I said is looking at love, but what does love look like? Pastor Bruce Goettsche quotes Jerry Bridges, in his book, The Pursuit of Godliness. Bridges takes the familiar words of 1 Corinthians 13 and writes them as positive statements. Goettsche says, “As you listen to these words, ask if they describe how you feel toward others.”
- I am patient with you because I love you and want to forgive you.
- I am kind to you because I love you and want to help you.
- I do not envy your possessions or your gifts because I love you and want you to have the best.
- I do not boast about my attainments because I love you and want to hear about yours.
- I am not proud because I love you and want to esteem you before myself.
- I am not rude because I love you and care about your feelings
- I am not self-seeking because I love you and want to meet your needs
- I am not easily angered by you because I love you and want to overlook your offenses
- I do not keep a record of wrongs because I love you, and "love covers a multitude of sins." [p. 246,247]
II. Relationships thrive when we are exhibiting Christ-like responses (1 Pet. 3:9-11)
Peter now moves from relationships in community to relationships outside of community. Obviously Peter would not want us this attitude with believers and have another attitude toward unbelievers. This is nice to hear, Pastor, but do you know who I live with? Do you realize who I work for? There are some real jerks out there and I have to protect myself! No, you don’t have to protect yourself, let God protect you as you exhibit Christ-like responses to suffering. So he goes from character to responses when circumstances get tough. Notice the order: character first, which then shape your responses! If your responses seem to be out of whack to life, you need to let God work on your heart to shape your character first.
He has a negative and positive command. “Evil” here which refers to pure wickedness, both in action and words, is mentioned five times. Peter is acknowledging that the wrong done to us is evil. It is legit. It is real. We cannot control or prevent it from happening, but we can control our responses. Reviling means “an abusive railing against,” “cursing,” or “speaking evil of.” Same root word is used in 1 Pet. 2:23 talking about how Christ responded to unjust suffering, by “not reviling.” Jesus also taught this (Matt. 5:44).
In Peter’s day, Christians were called “dogs.” Pastor Ray Pritchard notes that, “It would have been easy to reply, “I may be a dog, but you’re a pagan pig.” Peter says, “Don’t do it. Don’t respond in kind. Don’t return insult for insult, cheap shot for cheap shot, curse word for curse word, or threat for threat.” Such advice is certainly countercultural. The world says, “Don’t get mad—get even!”
Peter gives us three ways to respond like Christ when facing unjust suffering:
a) Respond by blessing them
It is one thing to exercise self-control and not retaliate. You might mumble under your breath, “Ok. Calm down. This guy is a real idiot. I’m not going to take a swing. I’m not going to throw anything. I’m not going to retaliate.” And then you walk away. It is whole another thing to say, “This really hurts right now, but how can I bless this person?” You say how is that possible? It is not possible. That is a God-thing. It is satanic to return evil for good. It is human to return good for good. But it is God-like to return good for evil. He says the same thing in 1 Pet. 3:11: “let him turn away from evil [which is right], and do good.” It is not enough to turn away from evil, you need to replace it with actions that point to God. Do not extinguish fire with fire, but fire with water.
Interestingly, the word translated “’blessing’ is the word from which the English word eulogy derives. It means to praise or speak well of others.” People give eulogies where? At a funeral. I’ve been to a few in my life. I’ve been to one where the person who died was not the greatest human being in the world. But people always seem to find something good to say about that person in their eulogy. Now Peter is not saying kill the person first and then say something nice about them ok? But we can always find something, even a small thing, to thank God for in someone’s heart.
You can bless people by praying for them. Once you go to the One who was reviled and not reviled back, you are transformed. He will give you His power to respond by blessing them. You can bless them by being grateful for something (eulogize) they have done that is noteworthy. We can bless people by choosing to forgive them over and over again. C.S. Lewis said, “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” And Augustine adds, “If you are suffering from a bad man’s injustice, forgive him lest there be two bad men.”
Often we react to people and circumstances because our expectations are not met. We go in to work or with our parents or with co-workers or our spouse or even people at church with expectations. And frustration comes when expectations are not met. Lower the expectations you have of others and higher the expectations for yourself. Ask yourself before you go into work or into a situation, “How can I be a blessing to someone today?” God is calling you to bless others!
But who’s going to take care of me? What about me? Well, God is going to take care of you. Notice: “that you may obtain a blessing.” In fact, this is why Peter quotes Psalm 34, which is a Psalm about how God takes care of those in suffering. Peter must love this psalm since he alluded to it already in 1 Pet. 2:3. We will get to the blessing soon, but take note of this. You can also:
b) Respond by guarding your tongue
Notice the quote from Psalm 34 here. We mentioned this before that sin often comes from the mouth. Someone says one thing and we say another. Often when we are hurt, we retaliate by gossip. We may retaliate by slander. This is evil according to the text. Notice the word “deceit” mentioned again like in what Jesus did not have in 1 Pet. 2:22 and what Peter already mentioned to get rid of in 1 Pet. 2:1.
Pastor Stephen Cole says this word means to “’bait’ or ‘snare.’ It refers to anything calculated to deceive, mislead or distort the facts. Deception is a barrier to communication and healthy relationships, since it destroys trust. It may be a deliberate attempt to bend the facts to suit your side of the story. Or perhaps you don’t mention certain facts so that the other person gets a skewed view of what really happened. It may be telling a person one thing to his face, but saying another thing behind his back. That way, people side with you against the person you are slandering.” The third way:
c) Respond by pursuing peace
Look at the last part of 1 Pet. 3:11: “let him seek peace and pursue it.” What kind of peace is he asking us to pursue? It’s relational peace. Look at the verbs here. They “convey an intensity and aggressiveness of action. (Implicit in the phrase is the analogy of the hunter vigorously tracking down his prey).” Usually our response when we are hurt is to run away not pursue anything. Peace is not just the absence of conflict, but the presence of God. We want to be peacemakers, bringing the presence of God in every situation. This may mean asking for forgiveness when necessary. It may mean dealing with a situation before it gets unmanageable. It may mean anticipating problems before it happens. This takes work as Romans 14:19 says, “So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual up-building.”
Do you want to experience the blessing of God? Cultivate Christ-like character and exhibit Christ-like responses in your relationships. If you are like, “Man, some people here are really close to God and they are experiencing His power, but I’m not.” Well, the first question is: How are your relationships? Well, I stay away from people. I’m isolated doing my own thing. That might be one of the problems. Start by emailing somebody. Start by asking someone how you can pray for them. Stop being so self-absorbed and move into someone’s heart. Watch God pour out His blessing on you! Really? What kind of blessing? Take note of this last thought:
III. God blesses Christ-like attitudes and responses in relationships (1 Pet. 3:12)
What will happen when we are cultivating Christ-like attitudes and responses in our relationships? Look at the promise: “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.” Notice the language of “eyes, ears and face.” It speaks to the nearness of God and His personal care for His people. I read this encouraging story this week: A child in Burma was permitted by his parents to go to a mission school in order that he might learn to read. By and by they found he was losing faith in the idols. This made them feel very sad. So the father took the lad to one of the [most beautiful] of the temples where the fragrance of incense filled the air. There he showed him the glittering images covered with gold and silver ornaments and surrounded by flowers and candles. `Here,' said the father, 'is a god you can see! The Christians cannot show you their God.' `Yes,' said the child, `we can see your god, but he cannot see us. We cannot see the Christian's God, but He sees us all the time!'” Aren’t you glad God sees us and hears our prayers?
We usually think a good day is if our job was not crazy and our boss was nice and our co-workers were doing their job and the kids all behaved and our spouses took care of us and so on and so forth. But here Peter says a good day, a day when you can love life and have joy is a day when you experience the presence of God, despite your circumstances because you worked on your character and responses, He gives you the greatest blessing of all: HIMSELF. What is greater than to know God’s so near to me? The Psalmist says in Ps. 73:28: “It is good for me to be near God.” It literally translates, “The nearness of God is my good.” What is more wonderful than to experience His nearness?
Interestingly, if you ever read Psalm 34, it sounds like the worst day of David’s life. Warren Wiersbe observes, “for the psalmist wrote about fears (Ps. 34:4), troubles (Ps. 34:6, 17), afflictions (Ps. 34:19), and even a broken heart (Ps. 34:18). A “good day” for the believer who “loves life” is not one in which he is pampered and sheltered, but one in which he experiences God’s help and blessing because of life’s problems and trials. It is a day in which he magnifies the Lord (Ps. 34:1–3), experiences answers to prayer (Ps. 34:4–7), tastes the goodness of God (Ps. 34:8), and senses the nearness of God (Ps. 34:18).”
Do you know what a good day is? It is when you know His eyes are upon you with no clouds of sin hindering you and Him. You sense His care and watch over you. And not only is He looking at you and watching you, He is listening to your cry. Our job is to please Him by cultivating Christ-like attitudes and responses in relationships, His job is to take care of us and answer our prayers. Wiersbe also says, “We can decide to endure life and make it a burden, escape life as though we were running from a battle, or enjoy life because we know God is in control.”
Peter encourages his readers to remember that being an ambassador also includes being an ambassador in all relationships. Cultivate Christ-like character and exhibit Christ-like response to unjust suffering. As we work on these things, we trust God with our needs. Where do we need prayer for today? Is your day good or bad based on circumstances or the presence of God in your life? Circumstances you cannot control, but you can control your choice to cultivate Christ-like character or how you will respond to whatever comes your way. God is not looking at us to do it perfectly, but progressively and increasingly. And if you dare take God at His Word, God will be sure to take care of you by not giving you what you want, but giving you what you need most: HIM. That my friends, is the good life.
Clowney, E. P. (137).
MacArthur, J. (187).
Deffinbaugh, B. “Summing up Submission.” http://bible.org/seriespage/summing-submission-1-peter-38-12 accessed 13 August 2010.
Wiersbe, W. W. (1 Pet. 3:8).
Clowney, E. P. (138).
Richison, Grant. “1 Pet. 3:8c” http://versebyversecommentary.com/1997/09/06/1-peter-38-2/ accessed 13 August 2010.
Pritchard, Ray. Ibid.
Constable, Tom. (1 Pet. 3:8).
Pritchard, Ray. “How to inherit a blessing,” http://www.keepbelieving.com/sermon/2005-02-20-How-to-Inherit-a-Blessing/ accessed 13 August 2010.
Pritchard, Ray. Ibid.
Goettsche, Bruce. “The Most Important Virtue,” http://www.unionchurch.com/archive/081698.html accessed 13 August 2010.
Macarthur, J. (190).
Pritchard, Ray. Ibid.
MacArthur, J. (190).
Pritchard, Ray. Ibid.
Cole, Stephen. “The good life and how to live it,” http://www.fcfonline.org/content/1/sermons/100492m.pdf accessed 13 August 2010.
MacArthur, J. (193).
Wiersbe, W. W. (1 Pet. 3:8).