DAILY DEVOTION - MAY 27
Listen to excerpts from today's daily devotion on this video.
This Daily Devotion is from A Living Hope, by Sarah Viggiano Wright, published by Bible Study Media, and made available to us through Presbyterian Women.
“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
With all the sad, heavy, and evil events going on in the world, it’s such a breath of fresh air to experience joy, peace, and kindness.
Ken Nwadike Jr., the “Free Hugs guy” goes to potentially hostile environments to embrace others in true love and kindness. This moves me deeply. For Nwakide Jr., what started as a response to spread love after the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing has become a platform for peace activism and the promotion of human connection. He continues to share his vision of love and peace for human betterment because he wants to live in a world that, while diverse in beliefs and backgrounds, is yet compassionate.
You may come up with other examples—a community taking up a collection for a family in need, or a child who makes bag lunches for the homeless. Whatever the goodness, people performing acts of kindness can not only move us, but can actually heal and revive us. They also shock and inspire a world unaccustomed to such tenderheartedness. However, this is exactly the kind of peace-making we are commanded to pursue by Peter (3:11).
Peter has been speaking to Christians, encouraging them to transform their marriages, households, and culture by radically loving and serving others as Jesus, their example, did. The theme of laying one’s life down for the betterment of another out of reverence for God has been the common thread woven through the tapestry of Peter’s words. Though his addresses have been extremely applicable in regard to outward behavior, what Peter is really calling Christians to is an inner transformation as they participate with the grace given to them by God. The summation of his message here is that, because all Christians have been blessed by God, they should, in all circumstances, be a blessing to all people.
Just as wives are called to gentle actions and speech in 3:4, all Christians are called to peaceful, gentle, harmonious conduct that has a life-changing effect on the world. It is perplexing and even unnerving to encounter a person so rooted in compassion that their response to insults being hurled at them is to seek to bless.
This is not a command to be artificial with our emotions, insincere with our vulnerability, or manipulative with our kindness. Rather, it is an encouragement to Christians to be mindful of our true identity and higher purpose, knowing that no evil on earth can affect our inheritance in heaven (v.9). And, like wives, if we as Christians are going to adorn ourselves with anything, it should be with outward humility rooted in an inward love of God and others.
God’s desire is that blessing the world around us would come from a genuine overflow of a tender heart. As Luke 6:45 says, “A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart” (NLT). We are to have goodness inside us, overflowing to blessing outside.
These commands become even more astonishing when we remember the circumstances of the original recipients: they lived in the midst of suffering and persecution. Their emperor, government officials, and even their neighbors were committing grievous acts against them. They were being economically cut off, driven from their homes, and subjected to verbal abuse and slander, not to mention the ways they had to cut themselves off from society to avoid activities that dishonored their true King. And, their unwillingness to worship the emperor was viewed as dissent.
The culture in which these Christians lived was continually firing ammunition against them. So Peter’s encouragement to engage with peace, love, and kindness was a high and counterintuitive call. Yet, such behavior could disarm their adversaries; thus, the apostle asks them to bless everyone, including their enemies.
How in the world does someone do that? How do we speak praise and blessing over those who have deeply hurt and wounded us? The short answer is, by remembering Jesus.
Peter starts this passage with five characteristics of those whose lives are a blessing to others—characteristics displayed by Jesus. Christians are encouraged to have unity of mind (truly, the mind of Christ; see Philippians 2:5–11), sympathy, brotherly love,
compassion, and humility. They are to live in harmony, tenderhearted toward others. Their reactions toward others should be ones of love, tenderness, and humility.
For those who have most deeply wounded us, this kind of reaction may simply mean praying for them, or trying to see their dignity. Again, we are not being asked to pretend the evil away, but we are being asked to keep Jesus’ higher perspective in mind when engaging those who have hurt us, even if prayer is our limit. We can also give hate and judgment over to God. We can seek faithful counsel and move toward restoring damaged relationships. We can pray that those who have hurt us will experience God’s mercy and grace for themselves. After all, Jesus died on the cross to bring those who were once enemies of God into his family.
Having the mind of Christ will preclude any arrogance, and having a kind heart will allow us to feel deeply for others. In this willingness to suffer and humble ourselves (5:7; Phil 2:6–8), we will grow in the knowledge of Christ and in love of others.
Again, this concept of brotherhood puts emphasis on the corporate good of God’s family over individual interests. But, more than just blessing the family of God or our natural families, the call to bless is extended to evil-doers: “Do not repay...reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless...” This encouragement is bolstered by Peter’s quote of Psalm 34:12–16 that references the Suffering Servant of Isaiah not reviling when he was verbally assaulted and abused, but instead entrusting himself to the Just Judge (1 Peter 2:23) who is “against those who do evil” (1 Peter 3:12).
Peter is truly emphasizing to these Christians to bless as the root word eulogeō appears twice in verse 9: bless instead of cursing and you will receive a blessing. This decision to bless is a challenge, especially when so many evils around us make us long for justice. However, the recompense of what one deserves is in the hands of the Lord. Our job is to incline our ears to what he is saying and have tender hearts and tame tongues. With these characteristics, we bless.
The Lord is faithful to hear our prayers and supply us with grace. And, while God will honor our choosing to bless and not curse (we “obtain a blessing” v.9), the true reason we are able to do so is because we have already been freely given the greatest blessing of all—Jesus Christ.