by Warren Camp
1 Peter 3:8–12 . . .
“Suffering for Doing Good”
While our previous passage focused on living as Christian husbands and wives (open Warren’s commentary on 3:1–7), today’s passage is about practical living based on the weighty doctrine of chapters 1 and 2. Peter has told us Christians how to live life and how to have effective social and interpersonal relationships with one another. In the verses preceding this lesson (see Warren’s commentaries for 2:11–17, 18–25; and 3:1–7), Peter gave instructions on submission and suffering as they relate to specific relationships. Now in vv. 8–12, he sets down general principles designed to govern all our relationships. He not only tells us how we’re to love our brethren but also how we’re to love our life.
These five verses, as well as the next ten verses, were addressed to all believers. Christians are commanded to be unified while refusing to seek revenge when wronged. Peter quotes from David (here) and Isaiah (in v. 14, next week) to show that God’s people have always been expected to reject evil and do good, even while suffering. In fact, it may be God’s will for his people to suffer, so that his power can be demonstrated for all to see. Ideally, our good example will cause others to repent. Christ, too, suffered while doing good. Then he died, was resurrected, and ascended to heaven with full power and authority.
“Harmonious, Sympathetic, Brotherly, Kindhearted, Humble (3:8–9)
Peter will now begin a new section of his letter to Christians. Earlier passages focused on issues unique to various groups: slaves, servants, wives, and husbands. He’ll address “all of you.” Every Christian believer is called to obey five life commands. Each one requires an appropriate level of mutual submission and / or selflessness toward others.
Suffering for Doing Good
8Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. 9Do 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 (1 Pet. 3:8–9 NIV).
We’re first told to “be like-minded” or harmonious to our fellow Christians, unified in our realization of how Jesus wants us to behave. Second, we’re to “be sympathetic” to fellow believers by being emotionally moved by and seriously interested in them. Peter’s third command is to “love one another” as members of the same Christ-following family, carrying that commitment to other Christians. Next, we’re to “be compassionate” or kind-hearted, which is similar to being sympathetic while remaining ready to show each other kindness and do good for others. His fifth and final order tells us Christians to “be humble” in spirit or mind, being ready to set ourselves aside.
Such love-filled behavior is designed to knit the Christian community into a unit having “like-mindedness” wherein all of its members are loving while expressing compassionate tenderheartedness, free from selfishness and self-centeredness. Verse 9 warns us, “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult.” We often find that our love for others gets challenged significantly when we’re wronged by people. When that happens, Peter urges us to not return evil for evil; instead, to provide a blessing to the situation and the people directly.
Revenge is never the right option for Christians. Peter’s order in v. 9 echoes Jesus’ teaching by insisting that those in Christ — holy people set apart with a new purpose — aren’t allowed to “get even” with people. Peter had written this first letter to believers who were likely experiencing physical harm, as well as condemnation or the blackening of one’s reputation because of their faith in Jesus.
Time is of the essence! No dispute, argument, or personally strained relationship among believers should continue. In situations when a Christian behaves inappropriately, other Christians should respond in a love-filled manner, attempting to keep the problem small and short-lived. While our natural response to unkindness is retaliation, if we honestly want to break the dreadful cycle of revenge, we’re to rely only on availing ourselves of Jesus’ love for our enemies. Jesus reminds us that we won’t receive significant credit when we greet and love those who greet and love us back. We’ll pass Jesus’ love test only when we demonstrate meaningful compassion for our enemies (Matthew 5:44–47).
A Christian’s Anticipation of an Enjoyable Life (vv. 10–11)
To show that such a practical love was part of the lifestyle of Old Testament saints, Peter reminds his readers of the elements of Psalm 34:12–16, which King David had written. Like David of old, we live as “foreigners and exiles” or “aliens and strangers” in a hostile world, knowing that in God’s time we’ll receive the blessings he’s promised. We should live in a manner consistent with our future hope. Specifically, rather than seeking to retaliate for the evils that people commit against us, we should actively seek to be a blessing to those people, trusting God to be faithful regarding his promises for us.
Peter’s quotation from David’s psalm now applies to this New Testament situation describing a man intent on living a life in which he can love and find worthwhile, one that’s not marked by endless exasperation and weariness.
10For, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech. 11They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it” (1 Pet. 3:10–11).
Peter certainly implies here that it’s right to love life and desire full and meaningful days. To “love life” is to delight in and relish life, living it to the fullest, having one that’s happy, meaningful, successful, prosperous, and enjoyable. And to “see good days” not only means that Christians should expect to live longer, but that they’ll also realize a fuller, prosperous, useful, and fulfilling life.
The first way to have an enjoyable life is to turn off the tongue. The tongue’s abuse is probably the number-one Christian sin. Christians often love to focus on sins they don’t themselves commit, neglecting those they do commit, such as using a vicious, maligning tongue, which can destroy a person’s reputation, as well as life, because the tongue carelessly expresses bitterness of the soul. Jesus’ brother, James, tells us that if the tongue can be controlled, every member of the body can be brought under control (James 3:2). The sin that our tongue commits is a very serious sin.
David’s Psalm 34:12ff teaches us to live a truly good life, today and in eternity, following the rules that God has revealed to us in his Word. Peter advises and reassures us that God’s laws are really for our good so we can have a good life today and an eternal life thereafter. His rules are: (1) “Keep the tongue from evil and the lips from deceitful speech”; (2) “turn away from evil and do good”; and (3) “seek peace and pursue it.”
The lesson we find in v. 11 continues Peter’s referencing of King David’s words which describe the specific choices that people must make if they’re sincere about loving life and seeing good days. But we cannot simply “turn from evil” in general. We must intentionally move toward or become something. God’s holy, set-apart people are exhorted to turn toward good and begin doing good routinely. That said, we should “seek peace and pursue it,” diligently working to obtain peace. The idea of “pursuing” implies that it may not easily come to us. Therefore, we must make an active effort to seek peace so we can obtain it. The true peacemaker cannot be passive but must be active, taking the lead, not merely by keeping the peace for himself but by encouraging and stimulating others to do likewise and make peace.
The Lord Sees You and Hears Your Prayers (v. 12)
This closing verse highlights Peter’s focus on David’s psalm wherein he describes the specific choices that Father God’s children need to make so they can successfully “love life and see good days.”
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” (1 Pet. 3:12).
When we actively practice the principles that Peter has described in this chapter’s first twelve verses, the Lord will be pleased with us and will listen to our prayers to him. However, he won’t listen to the prayers of those who do evil. God will bless us if we’re righteous, even when we suffer, so long as we behave in a godly manner. When we boldly come to him, we can be sure that we’ll receive what we ask, on the condition we keep his commands and do what pleases him. Again, the emphasis is on obedience: Every Christian believer is called to obey the five life commands that Peter lists in his v. 8.
God wants to answer his children’s prayers. He’s repeatedly promised to do so (Matthew 7:7–11; 1 John 3:21–22; 5:14–15; James 5:16). However, the righteous Christian is obliged to meet certain conditions. God has never promised to answer the prayers prayed by everybody. Although the Scriptures advise us that God hears and answers the prayers of those who follow and serve him, he doesn’t answer prayers prayed by the many who reject what he says and refuse to serve him (Psalm 66:18; Proverb 28:9; John 9:31). The rewards that the righteous followers of Jesus receive are better and far more secure than the rewards of evildoers. God promises this in what Apostle Peter has quoted.
Peter’s “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer,” refers to what our Lord provides his people continually. Jesus said, “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matt. 28:20), which has the same meaning as Peter’s point. His follow-up caveat — “but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil” — makes it clear that, not only are wicked men denied our God’s attentive care, but their unrighteousness will actually incur the Lord’s displeasure. He’ll be angry every day with the wicked who do evil.
- Q. 1 Are you harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble? Why? Why not?
- Q. 2 What might it take for you to succeed at developing those five characteristics?
- Q. 3 How successful have you been at refusing to speak evil or being deceitful with your words?
- Q. 4 Why would you help someone who has harmed or insulted you?
Intro Video: “First Peter”
Warren’s New “Peter Masterpieces” Photo Album
† View several classic paintings of Saint Peter by art world masters: Rembrandt, Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Rubens, Goya, El Greco, Raphael, Masaccio, Giotto, Correggio, Tintoretto, Caravaggio, Veneziano, Tissot, Duccio, Fra Angelico, Galle, Dürer, Palomino, and many more.
1 Peter 3:8–12