1 Peter 3:8-17 NIV
8 Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another,be compassionate and humble.
9 Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to
this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. 10 For,
“Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil
and their lips from deceitful speech. 11 They must turn from evil and do good;
they must seek peace and pursue it. 12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous
and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
13 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14 But even if you should suffer for
what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” 15 But in your hearts
revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the
reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear
conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be
ashamed of their slander. 17 For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.
What would you say? Are you more rational or more emotional? What do you think? Another way to put it, do
you aspire to be more emotional or more rational? As you think about how people will remember you, your
legacy, which is a good thing to do from time to time. Whether we realize it or not, we are leaving a legacy.
When you think about it, would you prefer to be remembered as a rational person who occasionally expressed
emotion, or you prefer to be remembered as a person who allowed emotions to be their guide and occasionally
had a rational thought?
I think that society teaches, and certainly different personalities hear and receive this in different ways, but
I think that we are taught that being rational and living rational lives drives progress and innovation. If we
can’t think through things rationally, we will not progress. Yet really, at the end of the day, we are really
emotional beings that have the capacity for rational, measured thoughts. When we really work at it and
take lots of deep breaths, we can be rational. What do you think?
When you watch the news. From this perspective, it doesn’t matter what news station you watch. Cable,
local, broadcast, they are all really the same in this regard. Think about it. Are they truly trying to give you
clear information and stimulate rational reflection? Or, are they really trying to pique our emotions? What
do you think? Let’s be honest. More often than not, the way things are nuanced in the news, they tried to
hit us right here in our gut. They try to get us scared, angry, or both. They seek to get us stirred up. They
seek to get a reaction. You ever hear of a knee jerk reaction? You see, knee jerk reaction physical, were
prone to this. We’re prone to knee jerk reactions. Everything is a crisis to get us to watch. This applies to
The Weather Channel as much as anything else. On television drama, who shot JR? Okay, I’m dating myself,
but you get the idea.
How do you feel? I was thinking about this the other day. It seems to happen more often than not. I’ll get
some kind of bill or have some other problem that requires contacting customer service on the phone. There
is a mistake. The product you ordered didn’t work correctly … you can fill in the blank on something else. I
will call customer service on the phone, and we will talk through the mistake. We will on beyond the verge of
resolving the issue. Then all the sudden… click… “Hello? Hello?” Nobody’s there. So very calmly and gently, I
dial the phone number again. You know how they say that they’re taking notes? It sure doesn’t seem like it
because I have to tell them the whole story over again. But this time the person’s a little more contrary, right?
And this person is not going to do what the last rep promised before we got cut off. It couldn’t have anything to
do with the fact that annoyance has bled into my voice even though I’m trying to stay calm and reasonable. And
then things here, in your stomach, they start to get out of sorts.
Or maybe, you offer up an idea at work or an organization you belong to. It’s a pretty good idea, but they don’t
see it that way. And you feel ignored, and you feel pushed to the side.
Or what about when you’re having a conversation with another person around politics whether it’s about gun
control, taxes, the economy, you fill in the blank, and it becomes apparent in the conversation that this person
doesn’t see things the same way that you do. You begin to feel it right here in the core of your being.
When these emotions begin to stir in our gut, we have the tendency to respond and several really unhealthy
ways. One of them is related to a Greek word found in Philippians chapter two, harpagmos. Everybody?
It is truly a pirate word. That’s not what it was intended to be, but it’s a pirate word, Arggg. That’s what pirates
do. They grab ahold of things for their own benefit. Whether it’s things or ideas, we harpagmos. We hold on to
them. We looked down on another person. Whether directly or indirectly, we communicate that they are inferior
for holding the thoughts and ideas that they do. There’s the internal and external judgments that we make, or we
simply begin to lose our cool and have an outburst of anger.
In an attempt to get our way, keep our way, or win over another to our way of thinking and living and being in
the world, we are often tempted to push and shove and to intimidate whether directly or passively. When we feel
like we’ve been attacked, when we feel like we’ve been hurt, we are tempted to want to hurt back. That is what the
scripture calls repaying evil with evil. Have you ever noticed this? Not in ourselves, of course, only other people,
right? Because we would never do that? 😉
As faithful followers of Jesus, we can be freed from this. We can be freed from the terrible burden of having
negative knee jerk reactions. Instead, you and I have the capacity, as the grace of God works in us, to lower
our legs and take deep breaths, and to respond in a way that would be in line with the eyes and the ears and
the mind and the heart of Jesus.
It is a simple as this. How we respond to others when we perceive they are a threat to our preferred way of
living and being in the world, how we respond to them really does matter. It is in this vein that Peter who
wrote 1st Peter… Peter struggled with this. There was a time when Peter lashed out at someone who was going
against his preferred way and preferred agenda. He cut off a guy’s ear! (c.f. John 18:10)
We read that in the Gospels, and oh that was … wow! Cutting off a guy’s ear, and it is that person who says,
Now, you might have said, “Finally!” when we got to the seventh sermon in this series. We called it Simply Church:
God’s Original Design for Life Together. I mean what are the things we’ve been talking about these last 7 weeks?
What are the essential ingredients for our life together, both as individuals and as a community? What do
we focus on? What are the non-negotiable essentials, to make us to be all that God is calling us to be. We talked
about how you and I are to train. Remember that day several weeks ago where we went to the gym? That we are
to train ourselves to be godly. That God has built this great capacity in us, as we cooperate with God’s grace
working in our lives to be transformed into his image. As we read Scripture together, as we pray together, as we
do things like taking communion together, in taking times of solitude and silence, those are the ways that we
create space in our lives for God to enter in and to transform us to be like his Son.
We are to filter through the lenses of God Holy Love, Only Holy Love. We’ve been saying it at the end of the
sermons these past weeks. Only Holy Love. When we are seeking to discern a way forward in our lives, we as
a church as we seek to discern God’s purpose for us here in Joseph, we will always discern that purpose through
the lenses of God. What is God’s Holy Love calling us to do in a given situation?
We will be unified. Not that we’re all going to be exactly alike, but we are going to be unified and come together
around at the risen Christ. Together we will follow the risen Christ as our Lord. We are going to be joyful. We are
going to live our lives together open handedly. We are going to be generous with our lives, generous with our time
and, with our resources. We’re going to be generous with our stories. We’re going to be generous with our ears.
We will live a life of joyful generosity for the sake of others. It’s what we were made for. We are going to be people
who think the essential ingredient is that we are going to focus outward. We’re not just going to be looking in
inward ourselves, but we are going to notice the brokenness in the world, and we are going to be people who step
towards, not step away from it. We are going to be people who are hospitable. We remember from last week, the
Berlin Airlift to feed 2 million people cut off and the Candy Drop for the children, Operation Little Vittles. We will
be people who give welcome and hospitality to the people who thought they were our enemy. We will welcome
And finally, this last ingredient. Just as Peter says, “Finally,” today we say, “Finally.” What is this last a central
ingredient for life together as individuals and our life together as a church? Finally, this last ingredient is that we
need to regularly have a good gut check. You weren’t expecting that where you? How many coaches did you ever
hear say, “Alright, boys. Okay, girls. It’s time to see what you’re really made of. This is going to be a good gut check
for us to see how bad really want it.” Anyone hear any of their coaches say something along those lines? Maybe
you heard it in a movie? Anyone?
“Finally,” Peter writes, “All of you, be like-minded.” It sounds kind of like unity, doesn’t it? “Be sympathetic.”
This word that means to feel how others who are broken feel. Be sympathetic. Feel along with others. So, after
all emotions are important, right?
“Love one another.” There it is, Only Holy Love. Then this next word, “Be compassionate.” The Greek word here
is eusplagchnos. Try saying that word. It’s a great word. It’s fun! Everybody …eusplagchnos. It’s really two Greek
words that are smashed together. The eu means “good,” and the splagchnos means “bowls.” Bet you weren’t
expecting to talk about bowls this morning, were you, right?
If you grew up reading the King James Version of the Bible … Anybody grow up reading that?… You’ll know this,
you’ll remember this the line “bowels of compassion.” They actually translated it that way in the King James,
“bowels of compassion.” Here’s what the writer means. You know what you feel like here when your emotions
are running high. You have heard the saying, “You get your stomach all tied up into …” What? “Knots.” That
means your bowels are bad. Something is affecting you emotionally, and it is causing this physical reaction in
your body. Eusplagchnos is translated “compassionate” in our Bibles meaning to be well off, to fare-well, and
to prosper. So, when our bowls are out of sorts, we are invited to do something like take Pepto Bismol, right?
Nausea, heartburn, indigestion, upset stomach, diarrhea right?
This can be whenever our stomachs are upset due to an emotional response. When our knees are jerky, that
can be a sign to us. It can be a means of grace, an indicator, an opportunity for us. Maybe we need to take a
deep breath, and let God lead us in a different direction.
In the ancient world the bowels were regarded as the seat of the violent passions and emotions such as anger
and love, but for the Israelites they were the seat of the tender affections such as kindness, benevolence, and
compassion. When we experience hurtful things from other people, that is rooted in their own personal hurt.
You may be familiar with the saying hurting people hurt people.
Having good and compassionate bowls leads us to a different response. When we are the subject of hurt, we
should notice that. To feel their hurt rather than leading with a lashing out. You see we can grow. We can grow
and have our knee jerk reaction regularly be a sense of compassion. “Oh my goodness! Man, that hurt. It really
hurt, but that means that they must be hurting, too.” Our calling is that we lead with that attitude. Our calling
is not to judge, to wound, or to hurt. Rather, our calling is ultimately, it always is to be a blessing.
Whenever Peter talks about being a blessing instead of cursing, he goes all the way back Genesis 12 and pulls
the original promise God made to Abraham. The people of God would always be a people that would receive
God’s blessing to be a blessing to others, even those who hurt us .
This whole essential ingredient of repaying evil with blessing is something Jesus talks about in Matthew
chapter five. Paul talks about it in Roman chapter twelve. Peter talks about it here in 1 Peter chapter three.
When we resist the urge to lash out and instead do good, God’s blessing is unleashed in our lives and is
unleashed in the world.
We repay evil with blessing by … Are you ready?… Repaying evil with blessing by watching our mouth. Yes,
what we say, and I would even go a step further. How we say it really does matter.
Peter here is quoting from Psalm 34. You should be aware that whenever one of the biblical writers quotes
particularly a Psalm or some other part of the Old Testament, they’re not just referencing those few versus.
In this case with these verse, Peter is referencing the whole of Psalm 34.
He says, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from
deceitful speech.” Let’s flip over to Psalm 34.
Then if we are spending our days with evil on our lips and being deceitful in our language, we are trapped.
We are in bondage, slavery. Psalm 34 verse 1. “I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on
my lips.” Verse 3, “Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together.”
If we are consumed with defending our positions in an unholy way with our lips, we will be kept from verse 8,
“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.” Or, we will be blinded to the
fact in verse 18, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
Yes, the ways in which we deal with difficult people in the world is hurtful. But, God has our backs. Verse 19
says, “The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all.” How we
speak to people matters.
We repay evil with blessing by peacing out or chilling out, by not taking ourselves too seriously, by taking
a step back calm and by committing to de-escalation. Peter writes, “Turn from evil, and do good. Seek peace
and pursue…” [Emphasis mine.] You see there is a stepping back, but it’s just for a moment, and then
there’s this advancing forward to give forgiveness. Forgiveness takes one. Letting go of the hurt takes one.
But then reconciliation takes two. Pursuing the other to make things right.
We repay evil with blessing by telling our stories. You see, the polite Wallowa County way is that when we are
wounded, when we are hurt, when we are offended, is to graciously withdraw. Peter writes, “But in your hearts,
revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for
the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those
who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” (1 Peter 3:15-16)
As we seek to nurture this kind of life, by the grace of God, working in us, it is not going to make everything
better. *ping* There are no “easy buttons.” *ping* In fact, it could get worse. More suffering, really?
Peter goes on, “17 For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.” You see God is
at work making all things new. Everyone say, “all things new.” All things new, this is the way that God is at
work in our lives and in the world, to make all things new. When Jesus suffered, Jesus did not retaliate.
When Jesus was been harassed, he was silent, but when it was time to speak, he spoke. But what he spoke
were words of forgiveness. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Could it be through our willingness to suffer, not only are we made new, but the ones that inflict the suffering
in our life, they will see it, and be moved by it and be transformed as well?
So, how is your gut today? Maybe there’s a particular person you’ve had in mind throughout this sermon who
has hurt you recently. I wonder if there is a way in which God is leading you to repay that person with blessing
and to abandon your plans to respond in a hurtful way or abandon your plans to withdraw. Peter would say
abandon your plans for evil. How is your gut?
I want to invite you to pray in a moment with me. If there is something stirring in you that you need to let go
of, I encourage you to bring that person or situation to mind, and under your breath, pray this along with me.
Lord, I let go. I let go of my desire to strike back. Lord I let go of my need to be right. Lord, I let go of my
need to control this person or this situation. O God, free all of us to seek authentic ways instead to step
towards these people or situations come and do good, and be a blessing. May we carry heaven and touch
those situations through your love and through your grace. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.
Now, let us say the Jesus Creed as found in your bulletins together … with feeling …
Love the Lord your God
With all your heart, with all your soul,
With all your mind,
And with all your strength.
And love your neighbor as yourself.
Only Holy Love