“Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.” 1 Peter 3:9
I don’t obey for the sake of obeying. That doesn’t mean that there are often times that I don’t find myself making myself obey when I don’t really feel like obeying. I guess that’s part of what shows I’m more mature than some of my grandkids. I say that, because they are here with me and I’ve seen lots of occasions of hearts winning out with their feelings over love of God and love of parents. And that’s just human nature. I have the same problem, but by God’s grace, I’m learning to be an overcomer. They have that same hope.
It’s funny what we perceive as suffering. Really, we turn anything that is the slightest frustration into suffering and persecution. But we ought to realize the difference between discomfort and suffering. It’s true, all discomfort is uncomfortable. And let’s not forget that obviously, there is discomfort in our most personal relationships at times, especially if we are working under, or living with a non-believer, and even still when we’re both believers. But we aren’t exempt even if those relationships are with other believers, are we? Why would that be?
Maybe too often we forget to see things in the light of Christ because, like my beloved grandkids, we focus too much on ourselves so much of the time. I want to know the remedy for not repaying evil for evil. When someone or something frustrates me or belittles me or whatever, Peter tells me the remedy. Sanctify the Lord God in your heart. (1 Peter 3:15) Be always ready as a testimony to why you can remain humble and fearless and full of hope, instead of bitter and angry and lashing back.
Be careful of being self-righteous. Peter says we have the same kind of blessing or state of bliss as Jesus talks about in those who live according to His values, His character He discussed in the beatitudes. If we suffer for righteousness’ sake, that is, we receive that blessing of security and closeness in God. I don’t think that’s based on my righteousness. I don’t think that’s because I did what was right and now I’m suffering and that’s the righteousness this is based on. I can look beyond the suffering because I’m not concerned with my righteousness, but with God’s righteousness. If I am suffering because I sanctify the Lord in my heart and my life, then in the midst of that suffering I am still focussed on You and Your righteousness and it’s not about me but about You.
Then, so what if I don’t deserve this treatment. It’s not about me. It’s about something and someone bigger than me. Jesus didn’t deserve His treatment either. But then again, even Jesus didn’t make it about Himself on the cross. He sanctified the Lord and in so doing, sanctified us. Even in the wilderness, Satan couldn’t lure Him to think otherwise by offering things that would build Him up. He didn’t want to venerate Himself. He wanted to venerate His heavenly Father. So, what about me?
Peter wants me to know that God called me to be that same kind of blessing, just as Jesus was. Why? Because God has blessed me through Jesus Christ. When He went to the cross and bore my punishment, the extremest of extreme persecution there was from man, plus the weight of the wrath of God upon Him for my sin, He did not render evil back to me. He doesn’t sit in heaven now and rail at me for my cruelty and stupidity. He invites me into intimate fellowship and blessing in the Heavenly Father! And I am called to do the same to those around me. How I respond in times of frustration and persecution shed light on my relationship with You, Lord, and how much I appreciate, how much I rejoice in how you have treated me and loved me instead of lashing back.
Are you suffering? David Powlison says our need, “…is to hear God talking and to experience him purposefully at work. That changes everything. Left to ourselves, we blindly react. Our troubles obsess us and distract us…You need to hear what God says, and to experience that he does what he says. You need to feel the weight and significance of what he is about. He never lies. He never disappoints (though he wisely sets about to disappoint our false hopes). Though you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, you need fear no evil, for he is with you. Goodness and mercy will follow you. This is what he is doing. God’s voice speaks deeper than what hurts, brighter than what is dark, more enduring than what is lost, truer than what happened. You awaken. You take it to heart, and you take heart. You experience that this is so. The world changes. You change. His voice changes the meaning of every hardship. What he does— has done, is doing, will do— alters the impact and outcome of everything happening to you. Your faith grows up into honest, intelligent humanness, no longer murky and inarticulate. You grow more like Jesus: the man of sorrows acquainted with grief, the man after God’s own heart, who having loved his own loved them to the end.”
I’m so thankful to Peter for calling me out on my attitudes and behavior. I’m thankful for other believers who do the same. There is an unnamed believer who wrote the hymn How Firm a Foundation who thought on these things too. You know, it’s pretty usual for song writers or hymn writers to write from their perspective towards praising God. But this author writes from God’s perspective to us. So as I listen to these words, taken out of Scripture truths, I can imagine You, Lord, reminding me of who You are and of Your promises to me. If that doesn’t help me to respond rightly because of the hope I have, I don’t know what else will! So let me end with some of those thoughts, from God’s perspective to us, out of part of How Firm a Foundation:
“When through fiery trials your pathway shall lie,
my grace, all-sufficient, shall be your supply;
the flame shall not hurt you; I only design
your dross to consume and your gold to refine.
“E’en down to old age all my people shall prove
my sovereign, eternal, unchangeable love;
and when hoary hairs shall their temples adorn,
like lambs they shall still in my bosom be borne.
“The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to his foes;
that soul, though all hell should endeavour to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.”