Christians are Brotherly (verse 8)
Peter is here describing the qualities of Christian character that are needed in order to sustain a Christian community. The first requirements listed are those dealing with brotherly love. To be “harmonious” is to have a unity of mind. In particular, it is to be in agreement about the core, foundational truths of Christianity. When believers have the mind of Christ, differences will not divide the church, but enrich it (cf. Romans 15:5-6). Being of the same mind regarding Him will produce love for Him and for one another. To be “sympathetic” is to have a sensitive understanding of others’ situations. It is to be affected as if the circumstances were our own and to care deeply about their needs (cf. Romans 15:1; Hebrews 13:3). To be “brotherly” is to love one another as brothers, as Peter exhorts us in 1 Peter 1:22. To be “kindhearted” is to be compassionately moved within. It is the opposite of being harsh, cruel, and thoughtless. Instead, it involves tenderheartedness and thoughtfulness (cf. Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:12-15). To be “humble in spirit” refers to a selfless servant-heartedness. These characteristics display the glory of the church. We cannot allow the individualism of the West to trump these types of commands for commitment to community.
Called to Bless and Be Blessed (verse 9)
Revenge and retaliation should be so far from our minds and hearts that we should not be in the least bit hindered in seeking a blessing in response to evil or insult. There is a natural human tendency, as well as a societal expectation, to retaliate rather than bless. To bless is to pray for, to be kind in word and deed toward, and to promote the well-being of the other person. It is not begrudging compliance, but big-hearted confidence in the power of God in the gospel. But, sadly, the temptation when insulted or maliciously treated is to respond in kind—i.e., with gossip or outright slander. Returning evil for evil perpetuates a vicious cycle. When we respond like the world, rather than like Christ, we give reason for concern regarding our lives, our professions, and our standing before God.
Keep Away from Evil (verses 10-11)
Verses 10-11 give us directions for enjoying sweet communion with Christ even though the days are evil, and also sweet fellowship with one another even though sin rears its ugly head. First, we must guard our mouth (cf. James 3:1ff). The Bible takes the sins of our speech very seriously (Psalm 12:2; Matthew 12:36-37). Second, we must flee from all sin (i.e. “evil”). Third, we must do the will of the Lord (i.e. “good”). Fourth, we must pursue peace (cf. Hebrews 12:14). Peace is easily disrupted and lost. It can only be preserved if Christians do not insult and revile and if they extend forgiveness to those who harm and offend them.
The one who does these things is the one who “desires life, to love and see good days.” Peter is not promising a life filled with only good days. Instead, he is, in keeping with the Psalm he is quoting, promising the life that is ours in the world to come. The blessing of the inheritance is not earned by performing good works, but the blessing does belong to those who demonstrate good works. A transformed life, one that looks like the directions given in these verses, is necessary to obtain the inheritance.
Grace or Wrath (verse 12)
As motivation and incentive for godly living, not only are we given the promise of heaven but also God’s favor now. The favor of the Lord rests on the righteous. The fact that God’s ear is open to our prayers implies that He has a willing heart to answer them. On the one hand, there is a watchful and benevolent providence and an acceptance of the prayers of the righteous. On the other hand, there is eternal wrath for those who do evil. The choice in how to respond to others in every situation is a choice between being blessed by God or opposed by Him.
- This passage must be read in the light of the surrounding context of 1 Peter, and in particular that of 2:21ff. The character that should describe the Christian is the same character exemplified by the Lord. We are to love our enemies, do good to those who hate us, bless those who curse, and pray for those who mistreat us, because this is what we see in the teaching and life of Christ (cf. Luke 6:27-28; Phil 2:1-5). The epitome of Christian ethics is not revenge, repayment, or retaliation, but love. And it is not mere love acknowledged, but love expressed. What opportunities do you have to show love to your enemies and bless those who curse or mistreat you? How have the teaching and example of Christ and the character qualities listed by Peter affected the way you interact with those who mistreat you? In what ways are you expressing love to them?