Attitudes that Revolutionize Relationships

1 Peter 3:8-12: Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous:  9Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.  10For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile:  11Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it.  12For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.

In the best of times relationships require nurturing and care.  But what about when times are tough and contention has opportunity to come between believers – should our relationships change?  For the Scriptural answer, we examine:

  • Historical Context: Written between A.D. 60 and 65, 1 Peter 1:1 identifies the Apostle Peter as the author.  Addressed to believers who had been dispersed throughout the ancient world and were under intense persecution, Peter reveals that it was actually a time to rejoice. He says to count it a privilege to suffer for the sake of Christ, as their Savior suffered for them. This letter makes reference to Peter’s personal experiences with Jesus and his sermons from the book of Acts. Peter confirms Satan as the great enemy of every Christian but the assurance of Christ’s future return gives the incentive of hope.
  • Grammatical Usage:  V. 8: “mind” in the Greek is “Homophron” meaning, “harmonious”; “compassion” is “sumpathes” meaning to “suffer with”; “brethren” is “Philadelphos” meaning, “to care for, love one like a brother”; “pitiful” or “Eusplagchnos” means, “compassionate, tender hearted”; “courteous” is “Philophron” meaning, “friendly and kind.”
  • Literal Application: “To sum up, let all be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; 9 not returning evil for evil, or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose [because unto this you were called] that you might inherit a blessing. 10 For, “Let him who means to love life and see good days Refrain his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking guile. 11 “And let him turn away from evil and do good; Let him seek peace and pursue it. 12 “For the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, And His ears attend to their prayer, But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
  • Contextual Interpretation: Of the five characteristics listed in 1 Peter 3:8, only the word for “Compassionate” is found more than once in the New Testament and it is only used twice (here and in Eph. 4:32). This unique vocabulary stresses the importance of these Christian virtues which keeps one from deceitful speech. Beginning in chapter 3, Peter makes a transition from specific instructions to specific groups (slaves, husbands, wives, etc.,) to address all his readers and give practical principles for living peacefully in a hostile, pagan culture. To be sure, cultural attitudes had swept into the church and thereby into the families of the church, affecting relationships with one another and the culture in general. 1 Peter 3:8-9 is Peter’s exposition of Psalm 34:12-16 which he then quoted (Vv. 10-12). These verses emphasize God’s watchful oversight and careful attention to His people’s needs. The central idea is humility, with an emphasis upon submission to one another, each one humbly filling his place in the Christian community by being or doing the things listed. The quote is rare and, as such, underscores an important point: the implications of humility for all the aspects of life in general – it is the epitome of the Christian life. The person who wants a truly happy life, enjoying all God’s blessings, must first turn away from evil in both word and deed. On the flip side, he must pursue or run after peace. This kind of person can be happy because God’s eyes are on him for protection; God’s ear is open to his prayer.
  • Scriptural Comparison: Peter sets down the general principles which should govern all our relationships in 3:8-9a:

Let All Be Harmonious

The Christian should have an attitude and outlook at harmony with others. One can easily see how this can be true of a believer as he or she relates to fellow believers. As Paul writes:

16 Be of the same mind toward one another … (Romans 12:16a).

3 Being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 [There is] one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all (Ephesians 4:3-6). 

1 If therefore there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, 2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose (Philippians 2;1-2).

The Christian should seek to be “harmonious” in his relationships with all men. Surely this is required in seeking to maintain peaceful relationships:

18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men (Romans 12:18).

I think Peter would have us go further than this however. True submission involves more than mere obedience; it involves discerning the mind of the one to whom we are to submit and seeking to embrace it to the degree possible. For example, a submissive employee should endeavor to determine how his employer wants things done and then seek to do it that way. A child should seek not only “to mind” a parent but to learn “the mind” of his parent and act accordingly. If such were the case, far fewer rules would be required. Rules are required when we are not of one mind.

Being harmonious does not mean becoming a clone. This does happen in cults, but it is not so in Christianity. In a cult, everyone thinks the same thing—whatever the cult leader teaches. Conformity is the operative principle in cults. Harmony is the operative principle in Christianity. Perhaps the best illustration would be an 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.

Let All Be Sympathetic

The term rendered “sympathetic” in the New American Standard Bible and the New International Version is a compound word made up from the root word “suffer”and the prefix “with.”The word originally meant “to suffer with.” A number of Bible scholars think we should take the term more generally, thus referring to a sensitivity to where others are in their experience. We are to identify or empathize with others, whether in their sorrow or their joy:

15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15).

This is the way Christians should be—sensitive to what is going on around them.

We dare not lose sight of the more specific meaning of the term, “to suffer with.”Peter’s epistle has much to say on the subject of suffering. The writer to the Hebrews also specifically instructs believers to “suffer with” one another:

3 Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body (Hebrews 13:3).

Later in this epistle, Peter likewise reminds his readers to bear in mind the sufferings of other saints:

9 But resist him, firm in [your] faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world (1 Peter 5:9).

Let All Be Brotherly

Brotherly love is the next requirement for the Christian’s relationship with others. This word is transliterated Philadelphia, brotherly love. It surely refers to the love believers should have one to another (Romans 12:9-10; 1 Thessalonians 4:9; Hebrews 13:1; 1 Peter 1:22; 2 Peter 1:7). This is the love Jesus required of His disciples (John 13:34-35; 15:11-14). I believe Peter’s instruction is broader in that he is instructing us to “love our neighbor,” our fellow-man (see Romans 13:8-10).

Let All Be Kindhearted

This word was originally used to refer to the intestines (“bowels”) or the hidden vital organs of the body as it was believed that deep and intense emotions come from deep within a person. Peter uses the term to refer to the depth of concern or compassion we should have toward others. 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 (see Matthew 9:36; 14:14; 15:32; 20:34, etc.).

Let All Be Humble in Spirit

The vitally important quality of humility is the recognition of our weaknesses and limitations. It recognizes strengths too, but it knows these have come from God (1 Peter 4:10; 1 Corinthians 4:7; Romans 12:3). Humility is closely related to submission, and it is essential for true Christian unity (see Philippians 2:1-8). Humility is not just required of those who are younger (1 Peter 5:5), but of all (1 Peter 3:8). Paul’s instructions to believers contain the same challenge to manifest humility:

16 Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation (Romans 12:16).

12 And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you (Colossians 3:12-13).

Our Lord Himself was characterized by humility (Matthew 11:29). Not Returning Evil for Evil:

9a Not returning evil for evil, or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead (1 Peter 3:9a).

From the time of the giving of the Old Testament law, the saint has been forbidden to take revenge:

18 “‘You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD’” (Leviticus 19:18).

22 Do not say, “I will repay evil”; Wait for the LORD, and He will save you (Proverbs 20:22; see 29:29).

Jesus taught the same thing during His earthly ministry. Men were not to take revenge; instead, they were to forgive and seek the blessing of those who have wronged us:

12 “‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.]’ 14 “For if you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions” (Matthew 6:12-15; see also Luke 6:27-36).

Both Peter and Paul call upon Christians to forgive those who have harmed them, encouraging them to seek to be a blessing to them (Romans 12:16-21; Ephesians 4:2; Philippians 2:3; Colossians 3:12-14; 1 Peter 5:5; see 2 Peter 2).

The qualities Peter has called for are those qualities of God Himself, the qualities called for by the Law, by our Lord, and by His apostles. These are qualities our culture used to highly regard but are now regarded as “weak”.  These qualities are antithetical to the characteristics of the “flesh” and virtually identical to those produced by the Spirit (see Galatians 5:16-26).

The Relationship Between
Getting a Blessing and Giving a Blessing

9 not returning evil for evil, or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose [because unto this you were called] that you might inherit a blessing.

The Scriptures offer several reasons why we should be characterized by grace rather than by a grudge toward those who have wronged us.

(1) Because it is consistent with the character of God (Matthew 5:43-48; Luke 6:35-36).

(2) Because it is consistent with our praise of God (James 3:8-12).

In our text, Peter supplies yet another reason:

(3) Because it is consistent with our destiny (1 Peter 3:9).

The logic is very simple. We have been called to inherit a blessing. If we are to live consistently with our calling, then we should be characterized by the fact that we bless others. James put it this way:

8 But no one can tame the tongue;

a restless evil [and] full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless [our] Lord and Father; and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; 10 from the same mouth come [both] blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. 11 Does a fountain send out from the same opening [both] fresh and bitter [water]? 12 Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Neither [can] salt water produce fresh. (James 3:8-12).

Not only does God bless us, but we are called to bless God. James argues that it is most inconsistent to bless God (the Creator of men) and then to curse men. Blessing and cursing should not both flow from our lips. Cursing must therefore be put away.

Peter’s instruction rests on this same principle. Our future destiny determines our present conduct. Because our future hope is that of blessing (God will bless us), our present relationships should be characterized by being a blessing to others.

  • Conclusion: We see that God has set a very high standard of conduct for His saints. It is indeed an impossible standard, apart from His grace. We are to manifest the mind of Christ and seek to bless those who harm us rather than seek revenge. We are to be a blessing to those in this world, even our enemies, knowing that we are destined to receive Gods blessings in the future and experience them now in the present. May God give us the grace to understand and apply the words of this precious text in 1 Peter.