8 Finally, all of you be like-minded and sympathetic, love one another, 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 may inherit a blessing.
1 Peter 3:8-9
On the surface, our text appears to be, well, just nice guidelines for how to we’re to treat each other as Christ followers. Be nice, be compassionate, be humble…you know, the checklist. But beyond sanctified common sense or godly guidelines, there is a larger narrative here—as there always is throughout Scripture. So let’s dig below the surface:
Peter begins with the word “Finally.” We’ve entered the conversation in the closing section of his epistle. Next, we see he’s writing to “all of you.” In the verses that led up to this closing section, Peter has spoken to various groups, including servants, wives and husbands. Now his literary tent gathers in all of these groups. But notice that he doesn’t address “masters” or “leaders.” The recipients of Peter’s first letter were a scattered people. They had been displaced from their homeland and were trying to plant themselves in foreign cultures that were, for all practical purposes, hostile to their faith.
The Apostle continues, “Be like-minded and sympathetic, love one another, and be compassionate and humble.” The thread running through each of these is the disposition of the heart. These are all inward and personal commands to reflect Christ in our conduct, conversation and mindset. How should we do this? The next words tell us explicitly—“not paying back evil for evil or insult for insult.” If a person’s heart is loving, sympathetic and compassionate, the fruit will be shown by not snarling with an unkind word or being vengeful.
The next phrase is perhaps the most important. “On the contrary, giving a blessing, since you were called for this.” Courtesy and resisting tit-for-tat conversation is more than just exercising self-control. It is a calling from God Himself, requiring the fruit of God’s Spirit to permeate even daily conversations and relationships. The only one who completely knows the disposition of our heart is God Himself. “May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to you, Lord, my rock and my Redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).
Peter’s instructions are not just a checklist. Their well-defined purpose is to draw us closer to our heavenly Father, resulting in an increase of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness and self-control in our lives (Galatians 5:22-23).
Questions to Ask Yourself
- If you’re like me, it won’t take long to recall a conversation you’ve had recently where what came out of your mouth wasn’t exactly dripping with the fruit of the Spirit. It could well have been with a loved one, even a member of your family. Find that person, apologize and ask forgiveness.
- It’s impossible to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit unless there’s an opportunity. For example, you’ll never know patience unless your patience is tested. Identify some aspect of your relationships that might test your love, your joy, your peace, etc., and ask God for help in that particular area.