I read this today with our HCC Thursday morning Bible study crew and thought to myself: “Self, you and a lot of your friends and virtual friends need to think and pray long and hard on this before our next tweet or post on Facebook.” Simon “Rocky” Johnson (you may know him as the apostle Peter) writes:
8 Now finally, all of you should be like-minded and sympathetic, should love believers, and be compassionate and humble, 9 not paying back evil for evil or insult for insult but, on the contrary, giving a blessing, since you were called for this, so that you can inherit a blessing (1 Peter 3:8-9).
all of you
Peter’s letter is written to Christians living as the decided minority in their world. Here in this part of his epistle, he writes to instruct Christ-followers how to interact with other believers. He means, of course, to address a specific group of folk in a specific time and place, namely, first-century Christians scattered and displaced in the Roman provinces of northern Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey). What the Lord Holy Spirit moves upon him to write, however, is perfectly suited for two millennia of Christians all around the globe, including twenty-first-century believers in the USA today.
So, when Pete says, “all of you,” he means you and me, each of us and all of us who rely upon Jesus Christ for our salvation and who claim to adhere to His teaching and endeavor to follow His example – whatever your tribe or denominational tag, whatever your race or ethnicity, whatever your socio-economic status, whatever your political persuasion. If we belong to Jesus Christ, we all belong to one another.
I will let you mine the treasure trove of Christian conduct to which Peter calls us. In fact, we would all do well to invest some time and brain cells and shoe leather in replicating each part of the behavior he promotes. May I save you from scrolling back up and simply remind you:
8 … all of you should be like-minded and sympathetic, should love believers, and be compassionate and humble, 9 not paying back evil for evil or insult for insult but, on the contrary, giving a blessing, since you were called for this, so that you can inherit a blessing (1 Peter 3:8-9).
you were called for this
Hey, brother and sister believer in Jesus Christ, we are “called for this.” We are called to give blessing, to encourage, to love one another just like Jesus Christ loves us (cf John 13:34-35. Go ahead, look it up. You’ll be glad you did).
What if we are called to be a blessing to other people, even and especially in the virtual world of our social networks? Maybe now would be a good time to take inventory of your last dozen or so updates and responses on your Facebook feed. Any blessing there? Anything there that sounds like what Jesus Christ calls us to be?
Pete draws inspiration from the Hebrew hymnal and quotes one of the psalms to seal the deal.
10 For the one who wants to love life
and to see good days
must keep his tongue from evil
and his lips from speaking deceit,
11 and he must turn away from evil
and do what is good.
He must seek peace and pursue it,
12 because the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous
and His ears are open to their request.
But the face of the Lord is against
those who do what is evil (1 Peter 3:10-12; Psalm 34:12-16).
The last phrase in verse 11 jumped out at me. Any of us who desire to love life and live well, must devote ourselves to “seek peace and pursue it.” On this text, Pastor Greg Pouncey writes:
… Conflict usually erupts because someone wants to win. Someone wants to win an argument, win a battle, or win a war. Christians have an obligation to pursue peace, not victory, at all costs.
… If we win a battle with our lost neighbors but lose our witness, we have worked against God’s ways rather than for them.
This is not a call to put our heads in the sand or to play nice as if the world is not the wacky hot mess that it is. In my estimation peace is not so much the absence of conflict as it is a campaign to stay the course, to keep calm, to trust ever more deeply, even in the throes of the most violent storms, in God’s Word, God’s work, and God’s way.
I am also of the opinion that peace is not the same as uniformity. Uniformity would have us all dress alike, talk alike, or vote alike. Unity, on the other hand, celebrates diversity and flavors and perspectives even as it brings us together like one large, multi-colored tapestry. Uniformity demands we all ride on the same bus, listen to the same music, follow the same schedule, and take the same route. Unity allows for vehicles of many shapes and sizes and seating capacities, endorses freedom in our pace, and celebrates the songs we prefer on the roads of our choice.
(Don’t try to make those metaphors walk on all fours, dear reader. John 14:6 makes clear the only way to the Father is Jesus Christ. Revelation 7:9-10 makes just as clear that Father revels in the rich, vibrant variety in our forever faith family.)
seek peace and pursue it
We have to pursue this peace. This requires effort. This involves rigor. This is a call to action that may leave us breathless and weary here. Remember, though, that “here” is not Home.
Listen, I don’t care very much anymore for whom you voted or did not vote. This is a landscape upon which we followers of King Jesus should stand out from the rest of the planet. Whether the onlookers live in the lands of the far left or the far right or the big, squishy middle, we who bear His name should stand out as exceptional by virtue of our profound love and respect for and humble service to one another and our neighbors. We should, as our Savior prophesies, be recognizable to the world as His disciples, His people, His family by our love for one another.
Now is the time. Let our world and our networks see in no uncertain terms that we are His, we belong to one family, and we will seek peace and pursue it by His grace and for His glory!