I Peter 3:8-16
8 Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. 9 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. 10 For, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. 11 He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. 12 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.” 13 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.” 15 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.
1. When Christ is set apart as Lord of my heart, He’s Lord of my attitude.
Have you ever heard of someone who lived for self and had a reputation as a mean, nasty, critical kind of person who then surrendered their life to Christ and became completely different? I’ve seen it many times. When Christ becomes our Lord, we can be transformed by the power of God’s Spirit to have the same attitude that Christ had, just as Philippians 2:5 encourages: “5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death– even death on a cross!”
We’re told in verse eight to be sympathetic with people, to love as brothers, to be compassionate and humble. Each one of these qualities flows from our attitude which is to be under Christ’s Lordship.
Ephesians 4:22-23 says, “22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”
Why do we need to be made new in our attitudes? Because it is part of our sinful nature to elevate ourselves. It’s part of our sinful nature to preserve our own interests at all costs. It is part of our sinful nature to defend ourselves and to get revenge. Our sinful nature says, “He hurt me. I’ll get even.” However, that’s not the attitude of Christ that we are called to display when Christ is the Lord of our lives.
I Peter 4:1-2 says, “1 Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is DONE WITH SIN. 2 As a result, he DOES NOT live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.” Do you see that? He was DONE WITH SIN, and as a result his attitude was not the attitude of self preservation and getting even and making people pay, but His attitude was for the will of God. If God wanted Him to bless people even though they cursed Him that was the attitude He chose.
It’s not that Jesus was a door mat. It was quite the opposite. It takes great strength, courage and conviction to always choose the will of God. In doing so, His attitude wasn’t a “do whatever you want to me and see if I care” attitude, but it was “do whatever you want to me, but I’m still going to serve and honor God” attitude. His attitude was surrendered to a higher calling. Living for the moment isn’t usually the high calling. The flesh wants to live for the moment. But the person who has the Lord as the Lord of their attitude is tempered, loving, patient, compassionate, and humble because they recognize it’s not about the moment, but always about the bigger picture and eternity. If Jesus had cursed those who were cursing Him, there would never have been a chance of them accepting His death on the cross as the forgiveness of their sins.
Do you remember the Roman guard who stood at the foot of the cross? In Mark 15:39, “And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” He professed a belief in Jesus in that moment. Why? The Roman guard had seen many people executed. He had stood at the foot of many crosses where people hung until they breathed their last. He wasn’t commenting on the style of Jesus’ death, but on Jesus Himself. He witnessed the beatings, the taunting, the persecution, the reviling that Jesus endured, and He saw Jesus’ attitude in response. His words revealed His attitude when from the cross, Jesus was committed to the bigger picture and to eternity as He said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
Our main text in I Peter 3 isn’t about being nice to those who are nice to us. It isn’t about being loving and patient and humble with those who are loving and patient and humble with us. Most anyone can do that. It’s literally about possessing an attitude of blessing for our enemies.
People who have the attitude of Christ aren’t easily offended. But people who live with themselves as the lord of their attitudes quickly allow the wound or words or attitude of another to bubble up in self defense, judgment and harsh feelings towards that person. The person who has made Christ the Lord of their attitude has decided that no matter what happens to them, they will be loving, humble, sensitive and compassionate to the jerks in life who haven’t yet surrendered (START VIDEO)
their attitudes to Christ. I love this video: video
You have to make up your mind daily that you are going to have the attitude of Christ and allow God through the Holy Spirit to control your attitude towards those whose words and actions will challenge your flesh.
Desire to pattern yourself after God and not after the world. Romans 8:6 says, “Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.” Your attitude will flow from what your mind is set on.
Doing the right thing with the wrong attitude won’t work. Some Christians are still like the little girl who started fighting with a friend. Her mother who heard about the quarrel talked with her little girl about it trying to show her she was wrong and her need of asking God’s forgiveness. Accordingly, when the little one kneeled down to pray, she humbly asked, “O God, please forgive me for getting angry and fighting with Charlotte.” So far so good. But the wrong attitude was still there, for the child went on, “And make Charlotte come to me and ask my forgiveness. O Lord, give her no rest until she is sorry and comes and tells me so!”
The little girl was still on the throne in that situation, wanting to call the shots, wanting her friend to demonstrate humility rather than showing it herself. Our attitude in how we do what we do reveals who our Lord is.
Chuck Swindoll has said, “I believe the single most significant decision I can make on a day-to-day basis is my choice of attitude. It is more important than my past, my education, my bankroll, my successes or failures, fame or pain, what other people think of me or say about me, my circumstances, or my position. Attitude is that ‘single string’ that keeps me going or cripples my progress.
You’ll remember in Genesis that Joseph was a favored son. Out of all of his brothers, he was his dad’s favorite. He had great dreams, God-given dreams, about a great future that awaited him. His brothers were jealous of him being the favored son and about his boasts about the future that was ahead of him. One brother wanted to kill him. Another suggested they fake his death and sell him into slavery instead. So that’s what they did. Joseph was removed from his home where he enjoyed a special relationship with his dad and was sent into slavery in Egypt.
When people do you wrong, as the years go by, you have either time to get bitter or time to get better. Like Swindoll said, the attitude you choose will keep you going or it will cripple your progress. You can feed the wound and grow more and more angry or you can realize that if Christ is your Lord, all of your life is surrendered to Him and God can bless you not just in spite of your mistreatment, but because of it. That’s exactly what happened to Joseph and how he viewed it. Through a series of both positive and negative circumstances, including being put wrongfully in prison, Joseph was elevated and blessed to the point of becoming the right hand man of the Pharaoh in Egypt. When a famine in his homeland brought his brothers to Egypt looking for food, although Joseph had the power to imprison or harm them, what was his attitude?
Listen to Genesis 45:4-11. “4 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! 5 And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. 6 For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will not be plowing and reaping. 7 But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. 8 “So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt. 9 Now hurry back to my father and say to him, ‘This is what your son Joseph says: God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; don’t delay. 10 You shall live in the region of Goshen and be near me–you, your children and grandchildren, your flocks and herds, and all you have. 11 I will provide for you there.”
Not a hint of “I’ll get even with you” in his attitude. It was instant love, instant forgiveness, and instant help. You see, when the Lord is Lord of our attitude, our attitude is to bless rather than to get even with them.
“Live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.” Each of these four attitudes requires that we are engaged with people, even with our enemies.
You can’t show sympathy from a distance. You can’t love a person you don’t know. You can’t be compassionate unless you take time to care, and you can’t be humble if you aren’t in a relationship with someone who puts you in the position of having to choose humility. That’s crucial to God’s mission. He wants to touch people with His love, and the only way to touch people is to get close. His plan is that Christ’s attitude in you, getting close to others, will be an opportunity for them to feel the love of God.
2. When Christ is set apart as Lord of my heart, He’s Lord of my answers.
As we read earlier from I Peter 3 verses 9-10 “9 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. 10 For, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech.” And then verse 15, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”
All of those verses refer to what comes out of our mouths. I know a lot of Christians who are almost afraid for anyone to know they are a Christian because if they are found out, someone might ask them a question that they can’t answer. Listen, if Christ is set apart as Lord of our hearts, He will direct us in what to say. He can’t, however, use our words if we have ruined our witness by cursing and insulting those who curse and insult us. He can’t use our words if we have run our mouths in a self righteous or arrogant way either.
There are times when we should speak because the Bible says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath.” Proverbs 15:1 Part of living in harmony with one another means speaking words that will bring down the temperature in the room and diffuse the anger that is present so that reconciliation can take place or peace can be obtained. When the Lord is set apart as Lord of our hearts, we’ll be able to discern when speaking would be helpful.
Verse 9 tells us that speaking kind words to those who insult us will only be for our benefit. We’ll inherit a blessing. Again, our attitude must be correct if our words are going to sound authentic and produce the right effect. “Oh yeah? Bless you” (spoken with disdain) isn’t going to work. How we say what we say is as important as the words themselves.
Most arguments can be minimized or stopped immediately if one person will decide not to return an insult for an insult. When one person decides not to retaliate, it’s over. Picture this. One person says, “I can’t believe what you just did. That was so stupid.” The other person says, “Are you calling me stupid?” The first person says, “Yeah, and what are you going to make of it?” To which the second person simply says, “Nothing.” The first person is left standing there without the ability to fight because a fight takes two. If you aren’t talking there isn’t a fight. One person may be saying stuff, but it no longer qualifies as a fight. It’s more like an emotional monologue. J The person doing the insulting just winds up looking ridiculous.
However, just refusing to participate in a fight isn’t enough. We’re called to be a blessing. “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called.” God’s will, which we choose when we set the Lord apart as Lord of our hearts, means that we do what He asks. His agenda is operation blessing. His agenda is operation mercy. His agenda is operation forgiveness. How else will people see how good and amazing He is?
As Christians, we can live on one of three levels. We can return evil for good. Let’s call that the satanic level because that’s the way the devil operates. We can return good for good and evil for evil, which is the human level. That’s generally the way the world operates. Or, we can return good for evil, which is the divine level. Jesus is the perfect example of the divine level. Giving an “eye for an eye” or a “tooth for a tooth” is the basic for justice, but we’re not necessarily called to operate on the basis of justice. We’re called to operate on the basis of mercy and to leave the justice up to God Himself.
That’s what Jesus did. I Peter 2:22-24 “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.”When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.”
Sometimes we’re called to speak to make a situation better. Sometimes we’re called to be silent, but whichever the Lord directs us to do, we’re always to exhibit gentleness and respect.
Do you know what you call a talking Christian who doesn’t show gentleness and respect? Annoying! J It’s true. When people ask us about our faith and we become “super Christians” speaking “super lingo” and don’t show any sensitivity to non-Christians when we don’t even know half of their story or why they haven’t yet surrendered their life to Christ, we turn them off. Yes, we need to give an answer to those who ask about the Hope we’ve found in Christ. But when Christ is set apart as Lord of our hearts, we won’t talk down to them and brow beat them into making a decision for Christ.
If you are going to enjoy this life, I Peter 3:10 says Christ needs to be Lord of your answers.
3. When Christ is set apart as Lord of my heart, He’s Lord of my actions.
I Peter 3:11 says, we must think and speak as Christ did, but we must also act that way as well. If something leads to peace, according to I Peter 3:11, that’s what we are supposed to do. “He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it.”
When you are thinking about taking an action or about responding to someone with an action, think and pray about it. Will it lead to peace? If not, don’t do it. You all know that our carnal nature just likes stirring the pot sometimes, right? Sometimes we are just plain petty. We’re demented just enough in our humanness to enjoy annoying people or irritating them. I see it with our kids all of the time. There is an element of pleasure in doing something they know will get on each others’ nerves. Am I telling the truth? We’re all just a little whacked aren’t we?
God’s Word says if it will make the situation worse or make someone’s life less peaceful, it’s not for us to do. We’re supposed to be on the lookout for peace. We’re supposed to pursue it, and to look for ways to bring it to people who need it.
It might require leaving our home, giving our money, using our car, lending our lawn mower, writing a note, making someone dinner, buying flowers, going to someone’s house to have prayer with them, but if we know we can do something by our actions to provide peace for someone and we don’t do it, we aren’t obeying the Word of God. What does the Bible say, “To know what to do and to not do it is sin.” James 4:17
Again, we’re supposed to model the way God is with us. Psalm 84:11 says, “For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.” You need to become a sun and a shield for people in your life. The sun brightens all of our lives doesn’t it? We’ve had so much snow and dreariness this winter, I’ll bet this Spring could go on record as being the happiest Spring ever because people will be so light-hearted and happy to see the sun. The sun also gives light. People who are in darkness need the peace that comes from someone showing caring and concern. It will bring light into their lives. To have something good to give someone that would contribute to their health, wellbeing and spiritual prosperity and keep it from them is the wrong approach. “No good thing” does God withhold from us. We need to seek ways with our actions to bless people.
So we do good things because it’s right to and we’re called to. Another real motivation for acting correctly is because God is always watching. Isn’t that what I Peter 3:12 says? 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.”
It’s one thing to act correctly in front of others because we want a pat on the back or to be esteemed and respected and appreciated. It’s another level of Lordship that we exercise when we think no one else is watching or no one else will know and we still do what is right.
God never turns His head or closes His eyes. Whatever you might be doing right now, whatever you are trying so hard to keep secret, you haven’t succeeded at anything. If Christ isn’t Lord of the private actions of our lives, He isn’t Lord at all and the Scripture says He won’t hear our prayers. We won’t have His favor. We won’t walk in His blessing.
We’re supposed to be eager to do good things, eager to have Christ as the Lord of our actions because good works can serve as a protection. “Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good?” I Peter 3:13 People will be less likely to bother you if your actions toward them are Christ-like.
What I’m trying to get at with all of this is that Christ being Lord of our lives is more than a belief and it’s more than lip service. It will involve a complete change in our attitude, our answers, and our actions. If you’re here this morning and you are professing to be a Christian, if you can’t say that Christ is the Lord of your life in all three areas, something needs to happen.
I was at our national meeting in Anderson, Indiana when I was 18. I very clearly heard the Lord call me into full-time ministry. I went to a prayer room and took my dad with me. Being a minister, I knew he’d be thrilled and overjoyed and celebrate that I was going to follow in his footsteps, so I told him the big news. “Dad, I’m saying ‘yes’ to God’s call to ministry.” He didn’t shout with excitement. He didn’t tell me how proud he was to see me making ministry my vocation.” He quietly said, “If that’s true, you need to change the way you talk to and act toward your brother and sister.”
Gulp. What he was saying is that if Christ was going to be my Lord, and I was going to work for Him, my attitude, answers, and actions had to reflect it.