After addressing specific examples of how people should live as servants of God (slaves, wives, and husbands), Peter now addresses us all.
First he addresses how we are to relate to one another.
Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. (8)
I can’t help but think of Jesus’ words at this point when he told his disciples,
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13:34-35)
In I Peter 3:8, I think Peter is merely expanding on the words of Jesus. Again, the context of this comes in part from chapter 2 verse 12, that we live such lives among the pagans that they can see our good deeds and glorify God. But this is difficult to do when we can’t even get along with one another.
He then returns to the topic of how we, as Christ’s servants, are to deal with suffering and persecution. And we are not to respond as the world often does, with bitterness and retaliation. Rather, we are to respond with blessing. (9)
Again, this echoes the words of Christ who told us,
Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. (Luke 6:28)
And Peter says that if we bless others, we ourselves will receive blessing from God.
Peter also tells us that in the face of evil, we are not to respond with evil. (9)
Rather, he quotes Psalm 34 and admonishes us to watch our tongues, to turn from evil, and to seek peace and pursue it. (10-12)
That’s hard to do. It certainly was in Peter’s time. Nero literally lit up Christians as torches at his garden parties. Peter himself was crucified under Nero’s order.
But Peter says,
But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.” (14)
And then he comes to the key verse of this passage.
But in your hearts, set apart Christ as Lord. (15)
Why should slaves put up with unjust treatment from their owners? Why should wives submit to their husbands? Why should husbands respect their wives? Why should we love one another in the church? Why should we turn from evil when persecuted and bless those who abuse us?
Because Jesus is Lord of our lives. At least, he should be. And Peter charges us here to set him apart as Lord in our hearts. To remember that ultimately we are his servants. And that as his servants, we are to shine his light to the world. But we can’t do that if we’re living for ourselves, putting our own personal desires and goals above his kingdom.
With that in mind, then, in the face of suffering and persecution, Peter tells us,
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, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. (15b-16)
Eventually, if we keep living as Christ’s servants, people will start to wonder why, even our persecutors, and then they will ask. And when they do, it opens up the opportunity for us to bring them into God’s kingdom too. But that will never happen if we are living for ourselves.
That’s why Peter concludes by saying,
It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. (17)
Certainly none of us wants to suffer. But if we suffer not because we did evil, but because we have been living as servants of Christ, we will see God’s kingdom increase and God will reward us for it.
How about you? Who and what are you living for?