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What God Has Called Us To Do

With everything that has been happening in the last couple of weeks, I’ve wondered whether we should continue our study in the book of 1 Peter or if we should re-adjust our focus to something else. And I am still considering that for the weeks ahead, but for this week anyway, I do want to continue in 1 Peter. 

However, as we’ve just finished up chapter 2 last week, our next passage in chapter 3 is Peter’s instructions for how husbands and wives are to relate to one another. And if you’ve looked at this passage, there are some pretty controversial things written there so I want to be careful that I present this passage in a way that is accurate and consistent with what the rest of the Bible says. I don’t want to say things or not say things simply because they don’t fit our modern cultural expectations. So that’s going to take a little bit of extra study on my part.

However, with the craziness of this week, I’m simply haven’t had the time for that extra study, so for today, I want to skip down just a little bit for now to a passage that is a little bit more straight forward – and we’ll come back to this passage later. I want to look today at 1 Peter chapter 3, verses 8 to 12. And this I think is very applicable to all of us – especially in light of all that’s going on in our world over these past weeks.

So let me begin by reading these verses to you: Peter writes in 1 Peter chapter 3 starting at verse 8:

8 Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. 9 Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will grant you his blessing. 10 For the Scriptures say,

“If you want to enjoy life

    and see many happy days,

keep your tongue from speaking evil

    and your lips from telling lies.

11 Turn away from evil and do good.

    Search for peace, and work to maintain it.

12 The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right,

    and his ears are open to their prayers.

But the Lord turns his face

    against those who do evil.”

1 Peter 3:8-12

Now again, I’ll remind you why Peter is writing this letter. You’ll recall that Peter addressing Christians who are living in exile – some them literally exiled from their homes because of persecution – But all of them living in exile as Christians in an unbelieving world. As citizens of the Kingdom of God, we pledge allegiance to different King and we live under his authority and His rule. 

The values and priorities and practices of those in the kingdom of God are often very different from those in the kingdom of this world. And so these Christians to whom Peter was writing, were living very differently from the people around them. And because of this, many around them began to view these Christians with a great deal of suspicious – as if they were some strange cult or something – and therefore, the Christians at that time began to face increasing hostility.

And I can imagine, that without the support and care of the others in their church family, these Christians would feel very much alone. Some of them were physically alone – without their extended families nearby to support and encourage them. Others may have felt spiritually alone – perhaps being the only Christian in their family or their circle of friends. To these people living in exile – whether physically or relationally – being cared for and loved by their church family was extremely important! And so that’s why Peter writes these words in verse 8.

8 Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude.

1 Peter 3:8

And we’re going to dig into this verse a little bit more, but I can’t help but see how applicable this passage is for us today. 

In all the verses proceeding this, Peter has been talking about the kind of relationships we are to have with the different groups of people in our lives. He talks about our relationship with our governments and those in authority over us. He talks about the relationship between slave and master – or employee and employer. He talks in the verses we just hoped over about the relationship between husband and wife. And now here in this verse he talks about the kind of relationship we are to have with the other Christians in our lives.

And this has always been important, but I think it’s all the more important in these days. As we self-isolate and hunker down in our homes as we wait for this crisis to pass, as fear and anxiety runs rampant in our communities – we need the support and encouragement of our church family more than ever. Even though we can’t meet face-to-face on Sunday mornings, we still have all kinds of ways to connect and to encourage one another.

I think these instructions from Peter are very timely for us today:

8 Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude.

1 Peter 3:8

Peter begins by telling us to be of one mind. Or the NET translation puts it “All of you be harmonious” or the NRSV translation puts it, “All of you have unity of spirit”.

The idea here is not that we’re all identical clones of one another, but that we all have the same purpose and values, the same ultimate goals and intentions in how we live our lives.

In fact, Jesus pray for us some 2000 years ago that we would experience that kind of unity. In John 17:20, Jesus says:

20 “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. 21 I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.

John 17:20-21

Jesus prays that we would be one – that we would be of one mind – one with each other and one with God. Now again, that doesn’t mean that we can’t have diversity among us! I think it’s great that our church family is made up such different people. But there are some things – some goals and purposes that we can all unite around.

Things like:

We want to glorify God in everything we do. Of course, we all do a lot of different things – we have different hobbies, different jobs, different passions in life – but all of us want those different things to glorify God. We can be united around that goal. Let’s bring glory to God in everything we do – even when we’re stuck at home. Even when we’re out of a job. Even when the stores are outta toilet paper! Let’s bring honour and glory to God in everything we do. We can be united around that purpose.

Another purpose we can all be united around is simply loving God and loving our neighbors.

Jesus said:

“‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Matthew 22:37-39

Clearly loving God and loving our neighbour are two things that God wants everyone to do. Not everyone in our church will be united in their understanding of how the end times are going to unfold or whether God is in time or outside of time – we may have differing views of Calvinism or Arminianism or a million other “isms…” but we can all agree that we need to love God and love our neighbor as ourselves. We can be of one mind in this. This is something we can all work towards together.

A third example of how we can be of one mind, is in our desire to make disciples. Matthew 28:18-20 says…

18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

These are the marching orders for every Christian. No matter who you are or where you are – all of us are to make disciples. And I think we all have a tremendous opportunity and responsibility to do this is the weeks or months ahead in particular. 

We can’t leave the disciple-making to programs and pastors. We no longer have our Sunday school or kids club programs – no youth group or Ladies Bible study. It’s up to all of us to follow Jesus’ instructions to make disciples – teaching them to obey everything that He has commanded us. We can all be of one-mind and one-purpose as we strive to make disciples of our kids, of our neighbors, of that other people that we meet (so long as we stay 6 feet away!)

The bottom line is that, with all these big, over-arching goals and purposes that we all share together, we should never let any less important, minor differences keep us from working together to accomplish these goals. It is a tragedy when Christians fail to work together to accomplish these important goals because of some small differences between us. Whether that’s minor doctrinal differences or an unresolved incident between two people or two groups of people – we can’t let the little stuff keep us from working together on the big stuff. We must be of one-mind – united together to accomplish those things that God has asked us to do.

Remember, we’re in this together! All of us together are the body of Christ. We are his family. We are all brothers and sisters in Him.

And that leads us into the second part of this verse – Peter writes:

8 Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude.

1 Peter 3:8

It’s been interesting as I’ve talked with different people over the past couple weeks – how differently they are reacting to all that’s going on in our world today – and how differently all this has impacted their lives already.

There are some, that this has hardly impacted at all. Sure, there’s a few inconveniences, but for the most part, life continues on pretty much like normal. For some of these folks, they’re not entirely sure what all the fuss is about.

But then there are others who’re going through massive upheaval. Everything’s changed! Important plans have been canceled, their jobs are in questions and their finances are in big trouble, they’re dealing with some major stresses and anxiety.

And I think this just highlights for us how important it is that we, as a family of believers, are there for each other. We need to sympathize with each other (Even if we’re not experiencing the same thing). We need to try to put ourselves in their shoes and to understand what they’re feeling. We need to love each other as brothers and sisters – to be tenderhearted towards each other with humble attitudes.

It’s pretty easy to just be caught up in our own little world. It’s easy to forget that other people around us are hurting too! And this certainly isn’t restricted to just the fall out from the coronavirus – there are always hurting people around us. There are always people in our church who are going through hard times. People who are struggling in their marriages, people who can’t find work, people who have sickness or injuries, people who have recently lost a loved one, people who are struggling with depression or anxiety…. 

And a lot of the time, we don’t even know about it. We stoic Canadians don’t often like to share our troubles and our problems with each other. And so it’s really important that as a church family, we take the initiative to get involved in each other’s lives – that we love each other like brothers and sisters, so that when these things do come up, we’ve got people in our lives who know what’s going on – they know us well and can walk with us through those difficult times.

I think this is actually one of the great opportunities that we have as a church in the midst of these unusual times that we’re living through right now.

Because we aren’t meeting face to face – and because we know that all of us are going through challenging times – this is a great opportunity to deepen those personal relationships with one another. With all that’s going on, it’s not awkward at all to call up someone from church just to say, “Hey, how have you been doing? I’ve been thinking about you and praying for you! What struggles are you going through and how can I help?”

That might seem out of the blue in any other circumstances, but not now! Being physically distanced from each other is a fantastic opportunity to draw closer relationally. 

And on that note of opportunities – this is also a great opportunity to build relationships with your neighbors for those same reasons. In any other circumstance, it might seem odd to call them up and ask them how their doing and if you can help them in any way – but with today’s situation – no one would bat an eye. Even if you don’t know your neighbors at all, I would guess that most of them would really appreciate the fact that you cared enough to check in on them. This is a great opportunity to build a relationship with your neighbors so that hopefully they can one day come to know and love Jesus too!

So make the most of these unique opportunities!

But to get back to our passage in 1 Peter, Peter continues instructing us in our interpersonal relationships by saying:

9 Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will grant you his blessing.  1 Peter 3:9

Now this is exactly what we talked about last week when we talked about the relationship between slaves and masters… Just to refresh your memory, let me read a couple of verses from 1 Peter chapter 2 – starting at verse 21. This is what we read last week:

21 For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps.

22 He never sinned,

    nor ever deceived anyone.

23 He did not retaliate when he was insulted,

    nor threaten revenge when he suffered.

He left his case in the hands of God,

    who always judges fairly.

1 Peter 2:21-23

We noted last week that God has called us to do good – even if it means suffering – because that’s exactly what Christ did for us. And this must be an important point, because now again, in chapter 3, Peter makes that same point for the second time.

He says we are not to repay evil for evil. We are not to repay insult for insult.  Instead, we are to pay them back with a blessing – because that is what God has called us to do – and He will bless us when we do that.

Now I imagine that Peter is thinking about our relationship with the outside world when he talks about people who are insulting us and doing evil to us, (and that’s where we kinda focused our thoughts last week) but I suppose this principle is equally applicable within our own homes too.

This might be an important thing to remember as we are stuck at home with our families for days on end over these next few weeks. It’s hard to live in close quarters with the same people for a long period of time. Cabin fever can get the best of us and it’s easy to rub each other the wrong way – over and over and over again!

And so maybe this is a timely reminder for us as we are cooped up with our own families. 

9 Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will grant you his blessing.  1 Peter 3:9

I can already imagine myself repeating this verse to my kids as the week goes on. “Do not retaliate with insults when people insult you.” 

Instead pay them back with a blessing. When others are mean to you – you be kind to them. When others put your down – you build them up. When others horde and withhold – you be generous and share. Don’t repay evil for evil – instead, pay them back with a blessing.

And this is an important principle – it’s one that Peter keeps bringing up. We are to do good – even when others are not doing good to us.  That’s what it means to love like Christ. Romans 5:8 says…

“While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8b

He didn’t wait until we we got our act together – He didn’t wait until we started doing good. No, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

And so we need to do the same. We need to do good to others – even while they do evil to us. We need to bless others – even while they insult us. This is what God has called us to do – and He will grant you HIS blessing!

In fact, Peter goes on to explain:

10 For the Scriptures say,

“If you want to enjoy life

    and see many happy days,

keep your tongue from speaking evil

    and your lips from telling lies.

11 Turn away from evil and do good.

    Search for peace, and work to maintain it.

12 The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right,

    and his ears are open to their prayers.

But the Lord turns his face

    against those who do evil.”

1 Peter 3:10-12

This is actually a quote from Psalm 34 – the same passage that Greg read last week that has the verse “Taste and see that the Lord is good – oh the joys of those who take refuge in Him.” That verse comes just before this.

But this is the blessing that God promises to those who do good. He doesn’t promise that you’ll always be free from trouble or that things will always go well for you. He doesn’t promise that you’ll be healthy, wealthy, or well stocked with toilet paper!

But he does promise that the eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right, and his ears are open to their prayers.

In other words, as we seek to follow the example of Christ – loving our Christian brothers and sisters – loving our neighbors as our self –  doing good even to those who do evil to us – when we do that: God will take care of us.

We may go through difficult times – we may even suffer for doing good – but our God – the God who made the heavens and the earth – He will watch over us. 

He loves us more than we can imagine and He will walk with us every step of the way – giving us his peace and his joy and everything we need to make it through day by day.

I know many of you are facing many cares and concerns as you go into this next week. There are a lot of unknowns in our world today – but I just want to remind you that none of this is unknown to God and none of this is outside of His sovereign control. If God has allowed this, then He has some good things to come out of it. So I’d encourage you to look for those good things! Look for ways to be a blessing and to be an encouragement to the people around you. Make the most of these opportunities that God is bringing you! Continue doing good – following the footsteps of Jesus.

I want to close today by reading a short passage from Luke chapter 12, starting at verse 22. I think these would be good words to take into our week:

Jesus said, “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food to eat or enough clothes to wear. 23 For life is more than food, and your body more than clothing. 24 Look at the ravens. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for God feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than any birds! 25 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? 26 And if worry can’t accomplish a little thing like that, what’s the use of worrying over bigger things?

27 “Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 28 And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

29 “And don’t be concerned about what to eat and what to drink. Don’t worry about such things. 30 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs. 31 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.

Luke 12:22-31

Our God is still sovereign. Our God is still good. And all He asks of us is to trust Him and to continue doing the good things He’s called us to do.

So let’s do that. Let’s trust Him. Let’s keep doing good. Let’s love each other as brothers and sister – even if we’re not physically meeting with each other – take the initiative to connect via email or text message or whatever. But let’s care for each other and care for our neighbors. Let’s make the most of these opportunities to make disciples, and through all of this, let’s give praise and honour and glory to God.

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