Throughout his letter, Peter has both encouraged the church, reminding them that their home is not here on earth, but in Heaven, in the kingdom of God, and exhorted them to behave as God’s chosen people even through their terrible circumstances. I know we all go through difficult and arduous times. Sometimes our walk can feel like a trudge with grueling step after grueling step. Remember Believer, you are not alone, you have your Father, Redeemer, and Comforter with you. You have your brothers and sisters in Christ. The walk never has to be us slogging through the mire, we walk together with our eyes focused on Jesus above the sludge and our feet on the water. We need each other. Verses 8-12 reads
Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. 9 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. 10 For
“Whoever desires to love life
and see good days,
let him keep his tongue from evil
and his lips from speaking deceit;
11 let him turn away from evil and do good;
let him seek peace and pursue it.
12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
and his ears are open to their prayer.
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
It is together that we can encourage one another and exhort each other to respond with the Spirit of Christ, the fruit He brings out in us, and the love He has perfected in us. When someone in the world is abused, they console each other not with love but with vengeance and hate. They cheer one another on to imagine ways they can hurt the person who hurt them. But that is not who we are; we are children of the Living God who made us and made them, who loves us and loves them. We respond like our Lord and we love them. We trust that what God said is true in Deuteronomy 32:34-36.
Is not this laid up in store with me,
sealed up in my treasuries?
35 Vengeance is mine, and recompense,
for the time when their foot shall slip;
for the day of their calamity is at hand,
and their doom comes swiftly.’
36 For the Lord will vindicate his people
and have compassion on his servants,
when he sees that their power is gone
and there is none remaining, bond or free.
We are free to love our enemies, because we know God is just. Paul said it this way in Romans 12 :14-21
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Loving our enemies does so much more than we might imagine. It might make them think twice about trying to hurt us since it doesn’t seem to be affecting us the way they thought it should. It can convict their hearts that perhaps we are not as bad as they imagined and perhaps do not deserve their persecution. It can lead them to Christ as we love them the way He loves us. And if nothing else works, if they do not reconcile with the Lord then He will repay them for their evil, He will avenge us. In Luke 6:27-31 (TLB) Jesus said,
“Listen, all of you. Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. 28 Pray for the happiness of those who curse you; implore God’s blessing on those who hurt you.
29 “If someone slaps you on one cheek, let him slap the other too! If someone demands your coat, give him your shirt besides. 30 Give what you have to anyone who asks you for it; and when things are taken away from you, don’t worry about getting them back. 31 Treat others as you want them to treat you.”
Is it easy to love our enemies? No. When Jesus taught that, it was radical. People were blown away by the very idea of turning a cheek and inviting more abuse instead of hating back. It is a hard teaching, and can only be followed by disciples of Christ, filled with His Spirit, trusting God to completely. He wasn’t just talking about that mushy gushy don’t have to prove it feeling, but real tangible love, acting in love, being beyond kind and good to people who are abusing and stealing from us.
Imagine a mugger, beating you and trying to steal your wallet. To respond as Jesus says, is to not fight back but freely give him your wallet and your coat, offer him your shoes as well. Then to say, “Can I pray for you? Do you need anything else?” Someone cannot steal what is being given; this kind of love forgives so completely that the crime was never a crime, it was an opportunity for kindness and compassion. That is not easy; in fact, I will quote Jesus again, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God” (Mark 10:27).
Do you know how much God loves you? Do you know He wants the best for you? He wants you to enjoy this amazing relationship with Him to luxuriate in the riches of His kindness and become the image of Christ He created you to be. He loves the mugger, the thief, and the murderer too. He loves the ex-spouse, the broken drug addict, the egotistical megalomaniac, and the neighbor whose dog will not stop peeing on your lawn. Can you love them too?
Sure they can hurt you, but can they really affect anything other than the physical or emotional you? Even then, they can’t take the joy, hope, faith, or love God gives. Can they take anything from you? Even if they took your life, they haven’t taken anything real from you; you have eternal life. Verses 13-17 say,
Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good?14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God's will, than for doing evil.
Your response to suffering and persecution, to the evil that hatred puts on you is your opportunity to love your enemy. You may even have a chance to share the wonderful Gospel with the one who hates you. When they hurl another injury at you and instead of returning it, you offer yourself to them, they may ask, “How can you just take this?” “Why are you giving me this?” “What’s up with that?” You can answer with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, though I urge you to know what the Gospel is, so that you will speak truth, not fairy tale. You can answer with, “I love you because of Jesus. He loves you so much!” When you acknowledge Christ as the reason for your active love, The Holy Spirit will give you the words to follow with, He will whisper them to you and you can obediently speak His love to the person who so desperately needs to hear it. (Luke 12:8-11).
Jesus isn’t just watching from afar, He is at God’s right hand interceding for us. He knows what we go through because He suffered more deeply than we can possibly fathom and His Spirit is indwelled in us, working in us and through us, and sealing us. Jesus suffered the Crucifixion for us, for you Believer and for those who are hurting you. Verses 18-22 read,
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, 19 in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, 20 because they formerly did not obey, when God's patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. 21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.
We could get really deep into these verses. The love I have for God’s word and all the wisdom, faith, knowledge, and discernment that understanding it gives makes me want to delve in right now. But, this is not the time. Perhaps tomorrow is the time for hanging out with this passage. Today, understand that Jesus died for us and them, so that we would no longer be us and them but all His. He saves, He baptizes us in our act of obedience as a statement of belief and identity as a member of the household of God, and a symbol of agreeing with the Lord in His death and resurrection for forgiveness of sins and gift of eternal life. But He also baptizes us by anointing or sealing us with the Holy Spirit, and filling us up so that we can walk or operate in His love, power, and authority. He enables us to love as Jesus loved us, as Jesus loves us.
To love the world, to love our enemies, even to love one another can only be done in earnest and in reality by His power. His love heals, His love speaks truth, His love saves! And really, if we cannot love others like this, then we have to question if the Holy Spirit is living in us, if we have proclaimed Jesus is Lord and Christ, and if we actually love the Father as we claim to love Him. John said it like this in 1 John 4:20-21
If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
Not only are you saying you do not love God if you cannot love your brother, but if you are tantamount to a murderer if you don’t tangibly love others. 1 John 3:13-18 says,
Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. 15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
To not love your enemy is to be okay with sending him to the eternal death of Hell. That is murder. The world is filled with haters, thieves, and murderers. The world will hate you and the world will persecute you. The persecution we are experiencing now is nothing compared to what the exiles experienced, and nothing compared to the persecution that is coming. It is building, and we can feel it. But we have the Lord. We have God, our Father, Savior, and Holy Spirit to help us love those who hate us and be the image of Christ, love perfected in us.