Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. For, 'Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. 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 Peter 3:8-12Peter began this postscript to his first letter with, "Finally, y'all." Putting it at the last elevates this teaching to one of primary importance, the thoughts he most wanted his audience to take with them. Following that, we find a series of instructions summarizing Peter's Spirit-led beliefs about how to be like minded, or live harmoniously with one another: First, "be sympathetic." Regardless of the differences that will inevitably arise between faith-community-members, we must always try to consider circumstances and opinions from our brothers' perspectives. That means we must show deference to their motives, needs and views whether-or-not we ultimately agree with them. "Love as brothers" does not mean modeling our relationships after Cain and Able, or any number of other dysfunctional sibling relationships recounted in the Bible. Oddly enough, the classic, "brotherly love" relationship from the Bible is between two men who weren't siblings: Pre-King David and King Saul's son Jonathan. Following their example, we must demonstrate our love, one for another, actively, tangibly, consistently. The old joke, "I love him as my brother; just can't stand the guy," in no way applies to true brotherly love. The Apostle John also had much to say about how and why we must show our love. Any "Christian" who has a problem showing godly love to even the most irritating brethren really needs to check what the Bible has to say about it. But if someone needs some extremely basic instructions in brotherly loving, just "be compassionate and humble." Now comes the hard part: "Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing." To master this, one must remember that only God is righteous, which automatically rules out "righteous indignation" as the sweeping excuse for holding a grudge. Nuff said on that score? The Scripture even gives God's reason for this hard instruction. "Because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. For, 'Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it." So there comes the rub. Pursuing peace is just part of the greater instruction to repay evil with blessing. The old "peace and love," flower child stereotype falls apart in this context, because the Scriptural mandate is entirely selfless, and selflessness is just plain foreign to us faulty humans. And if needed, the last nail in our coffin of resistance follows at the end of the passage: "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." So why not just give in and obey? Sometimes, doing the right thing is just plain best.
Wednesday, October 07, 2009
Seek Peace and Pursue It
Who's kidding whom? Peace and love are the two most misunderstood and misapplied principles of life. Humanist thinkers easily take this post's title out of its Scriptural context in I Peter 3 and apply it to social and political peace, "pursuing it" against all wisdom. Here is the whole passage in its Scriptural context from the New International Version: