1 Peter 3 begins with Peter’s instruction for wives and husbands. I addressed the New Testament teaching on the Christian family when I talked about Colossians 3. Rather than rehash that same topic, I’d like to focus on what Peter has to say next.
1 Peter 3:8-22 addresses a temptation that Christians often face on some level, but really comes to a head when we go through hard times. The temptation is to turn on each other and to allow divisions within the body of Christ - or within our own families. When we are dealing with trauma, strife, sickness or persecution, it is easy to begin speaking more harshly to those we love or begin to blame them for problems that aren’t their responsibility. Over time these hurtful words can lead to rifts that tear apart our relationships and divide our churches.
Peter gives us two solutions. The first is to be humble, sympathetic and unified - in short, don’t be the person to start problems by allowing our temper or ego to get the better of us. While obvious, this advice is hard to follow when we feel overwhelmed. Peter reminds us that our problems are not solved by lashing out at those we love.
He goes on to tell us the second solution, “Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing.” (1 Pet. 3:9, NLT) In other words, not only are we supposed to be on our guard against the temptation to lash out at others, we are told to actively deescalate confrontation when others bring drama to our door.
For most of us, this is the harder of the two commands. Many of us can suffer the indignities of the day silently… right up to the moment that someone we care about mistreats us. Suddenly, all of the anger and frustration we feel bubbles up, and our spouse, son, daughter or parent is on the receiving end of everything we have been bottling up throughout the day. Peter tells us to watch out for the trap, and instead be gracious and kind even when those we love don’t show us the same courtesy.
Peter finishes by reminding us of the example of Christ, “Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God.” (1 Pet. 3:18 NLT) Our Lord knew what it meant to suffer at the hands of those He loved. Even on the cross, He was gracious and forgiving to those who had just nailed Him there.
When we are at our wits’ end, when we feel like we’ve taken all we can bear and are ready to start dealing out the punishment instead of taking it, let’s remember that Christ did not do so with us. Even though our sin put Him on the cross, He responded with love and reconciliation.
How do you speak to those you live with? Are you full of grace and kindness, or do you let your temper get away from you? How do you respond when others lose their temper at you? Do you fight fire with fire? Or do you follow Christ’s example, and show love even when the other person doesn’t act in kindness?