Bible Commentary on the First Letter of Peter: Section 3.6, 3:8–12
Turn Away From Evil and Do Good, Seek Peace and Pursue It.
Section 3.6 of 1 Peter (1 Peter 3:8–12)
To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit;
not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead;
for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.
For, “THE ONE WHO DESIRES LIFE, TO LOVE AND SEE GOOD DAYS, MUST KEEP HIS TONGUE FROM EVIL AND HIS LIPS FROM SPEAKING DECEIT.
HE MUST TURN AWAY FROM EVIL AND DO GOOD;
HE MUST SEEK PEACE AND PURSUE IT.
FOR THE EYES OF THE LORD ARE TOWARD THE RIGHTEOUS, AND HIS EARS ATTEND TO THEIR PRAYER, BUT THE FACE OF THE LORD IS AGAINST THOSE WHO DO EVIL.”
The sixth and final sub-section of the third section of the First Letter of Peter ends with an encompassing summary of how the recipients are directed to behave while in their various environments of slander and persecution. Peter began with, “Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as the observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.” (1 Peter 2:12 NASB). We now see him closing this section with “To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit…” (1 Peter 3:8 NASB). Peter is telling them to do these things within the context of these congregations being slandered in public and beginning to experience persecutions because of their Christian life-style.
We can see Peter reiterating the focus on the slander and “reviling” in verse 3:9 here as was mentioned of Christ in verse 3:23–24. “…not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.” Christ lived as the example for us to emulate in seeking to live in accordance with God’s will for us in our general ethical behavior. Those who are made righteous through their faith in God by His grace should display this type of behavior when threatened and maligned by the world around them. Peter starts the section by identifying one reason why they should do this, “…they may because of your good deeds…glorify God in the day of visitation.” Through our actions and behavior while under duress, we may come to bring the blessing of God to others. This further illuminates the great respect and responsibility that Peter assigns to wives, where he says,
“…so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives…” (1 Peter 3:1 NASB).
Peter tells them to “not [return] evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead…” This is an affirmation of the greater message of the fullness of God’s revelation in the bible, where Israel is formed not for their own sake, but for the sake of the world. This demonstrates the primary focus of the New Testament, demonstrating that Jesus was the fulfillment of the law and the prophets, the covenant message. Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham…
“And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” (Genesis 12:3 NASB)
As an extension of Christ, who dwells within those who place their faith in him, we continue to bring that blessing to the nations of the earth through the Gospel message. We also do so be being the example of Christ to the world, as Peter points out here. We are to bless others, even if they slander us. They may then come to glorify God through our actions as we demonstrate the true nature of Jesus through our obedience to his word as is brought to light through how we live.
Peter then moves to explain how this blessing applies to them through bringing to bear a psalm.
“Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies. Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to blot out their name from the earth.” (Psalm 34:12–16 NASB)
Just as we saw Peter mention to the husbands of the congregations “…so that your prayers may not be hindered..” (1 Peter 3:7 NASB) we can now see what he meant. This, again, is a reinforcement from the Old Testament (demonstrating its importance and significance even to today) of Jesus’ teaching and example and its relevance not only to the congregations of that time, but today as well. If we live our lives in this manner, keeping our tongue from evil and not telling lies, choosing to turn away from evil and by choosing to do good, by seeking peace and once it is found, pursuing it in all we do, we may enjoy the blessing of a good life. It shouldn’t take much to bring to the mind’s eye the truth of this. If you have a group of people who dwell among one another in this way, one can see how good life could be in such an environment. This can be so even among those worldly types who so slander the way we live our lives. Though we are surrounded by those who may seek our destruction, we may be able to live a peaceful life dwelling with God’s grace.
This ends the third section of the First Letter of Peter. From here, Peter transitions into further explanation about how they should behave in the public sphere. Here, Peter gave guidance and direction about how to behave within the institutions of the cultures and societies within which they (the recipients) dwell. He provides reasoning for why they should behave this way through comparing their sufferings to how Christ suffered for them. As mentioned in the previous section, this letter in many ways is a counselor or mentor aiding a person in stepping out of the darker context of their circumstances in order to lift up their spirits and bring their mind to focus on the greater picture. He outlines how they should view their suffering and how they should respond to their treatment by those they deal with on a daily basis. All of these things ring true to us today. The eyes of God are on the righteous, and he listens to their prayers. God knows of the struggles and difficulties we have in our lives. So much more so does He know of our difficulties that come simply from our belief in Him. Stay true to Him, stay obedient to His direction and guidance in your life, and you may continue to enjoy the peace that is brought by his grace even among the various trials of life we experience.