Why Can’t We All Just Get Along? (1 Pet 3:8-12)

Sunday, February 6th, 2011
Sermon Series: 1 Peter

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Why Can’t We All Get Along?

1 Peter 3:8-12

Why can’t we all get along–words made famous by Rodney King, who was the center of a police brutality case which resulted in rioting in Los Angeles.  But why can’t we all get along?  Why is there disunity, disharmony, discord, disagreement, conflict, criticism and more?  Why do some churches split, marriages crumble, families feud, Christians divide, and people struggle with relationships?  Why can’t you all get along at your workplace, in the church, in your school, at your home and in your marriage?  The answer is because you have not owned 1 Peter 3:8 to 12.
Open your Bibles to 1 Peter 3 and take your outline from your bulletin, and as you do I want you to recall your most recent conflict.  What is or was your biggest conflict?  Was it with a family member, a spouse, a Christian, another family, extended family, a leader, a teacher, a fellow student, or a friend?  Maybe it was a hurt that caused resentment, an argument still unresolved, some action of embarrassment or insensitivity–whatever it was, take that specific conflict and today place it under the authority of the Word of God, filter it through God’s truth, and measure it against God’s absolutes from 1 Peter 3:8 to 12.

Read this passage with me, “To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; 9 not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.10 For, “The one who desires life, to love and see good days, must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit. 11 He must turn away from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. 12 For the eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous, and his ears attend to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.
What I just read is life-changing if you embrace it.  This passage can change your relationships if you repent of your old way of doing things and depend upon the Spirit of God as you follow the Word of God.  This passage is what gives you the rules of engagement for your marriage, friends, and dealing with non-Christians.
Verses 8 to 12 will result in a powerful testimony of how Christ alone can impact your relationships with others.  This passage is a clear indicator of genuine biblical maturity.  And verses 8 to 12 remind us that Jesus Christ died for your sins so that normal relational conflict can be overcome.  Because people are corrupted and enslaved to their sin, and because Christians still battle with their flesh, conflict is inevitable, even as a Christian and with other Christians.
Paul confronted the great apostle Peter in Galatians 2
Paul and Barnabas had a conflict over John Mark in Acts 15
Euodia and Syntyche needed Timothy’s help to live in harmony in the Lord in Philippians 4
And you will struggle with other Christians, even me—shock!  You will grapple in your marriage, wrestle with your children, battle with your boss, tussle with your teacher, resist your leaders, even fight the faithful–which is why the New Testament does a full court press when it comes to unity.
Ephesians 4:3 says, “being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”  (Literally work to the point of exhaustion to maintain unity.)  Then in John 17:21 Jesus prays that we would be one like the trinity is one, “that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.”  Speaking to the divided and messed up Corinthians in his first letter, chapter 1 verse 10 Paul says, “Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment.”
The very act of Christ becoming a man, then offering Himself on the cross for our sins is used by the great apostle Paul to motivate the Philippians to pursue unity with each other in Philippians 2.  The oneness of the trinity and harmony of the Godhead Himself is the model of our unity and harmony with each other.  Every time you give into conflict and let it go unresolved, you’re actually maligning God’s character and smudging His glory.
Disunity, disharmony and discord are not the result of our circumstances or situation, they are the result of our sin.  It is not things outside of you that cause conflict, but your sin inside of you.  James makes this clear–James 4:1 to 2 says, “What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you?  Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have; so you commit murder.  You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel.”  Internal issues cause conflict.
Do you remember what Peter’s audience was struggling with?  The beginnings of persecution, suffering and attacks against them.  So Peter tells you in chapters 1 and 2 to remember your salvation–what God did for you that you could not do for yourself.  This is the only way you will stand firm in God’s grace in the midst of persecution.  And it is the fact that God Himself had to die for your sins that keeps you humble in relationships.
Then in chapters 2 and 3 to stand firm in grace, Peter tells you to submit to authorities, to unfair government in 2:13, to unjust masters in 2:18, even to unsaved husbands in 3:1 to 6.  And this kind of humility is the only way to get along in a society that is dead in their sins.  So now in verses 8 to 12 Peter wraps up his instruction on submission with a summary exhortation on how to get along with others.
Peter just finished teaching on marriage in verses 1 to 7, so obviously in the back of his mind as he wraps this section up is how to deal with conflict in marriage–listen up couples.  Yet, the beginning of verse 8 leads us to conclude that Peter is addressing every Christian, married or not.  How does he start verse 8, “To sum up, all of you be.”  To sum up is literally, now the end.   Peter is not ending his letter, but bringing the discussion on submission to a close, 2:11 to 3:12.
So Peter moves from individual groups, citizens, slaves and wives–now to include every believer with the phrase “all of you be.”  So how do you all do it?  How can you all just get along?  How do you avoid conflict, preserve unity, and enjoy oneness?  Peter gives you two major points that are chuckfull of truth to help you get along with others, even when our society turns against the Church and Christians in general.  Peter first tells you what to do to get along with others by the commitments you make and the guidelines to follow.

#1  The Conduct for Getting Along

Make no mistake, there are things you need to do to get along with others, and there are things you are not to do.  One sarcastic article I read gave seven keys for what not to do:

1 Let your emotions build up so you’re in an explosive frame of mind

2 Assume you know all the facts and you’re totally right

3 Tell everyone else about your conflict except for the person you are struggling with

4 Focus on all the faults of the other person, make as many accusations as possible about them and elevate their weaknesses to make them seem like they are mentally unstable

5 Judge the motives of the offending party and keep track of all the ways they possibly could have offended others in the past

6 Elevate your conflict to a black and white, always right and never wrong issue–press for total victory and unconditional surrender

7 When personally attacked, make certain that you pass the buck and blame anyone else you can and do not take any responsibility in the disagreement at all

That is what not to do, so what does Peter tell us to do?

First  Getting along commitment

Look at verse 8, “To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit.”  Peter uses five adjectives to describe five virtues necessary for you to get along in home, at work and at school with your friends.  Any disunity you experience comes from the lack of one of these character commitments.  These are commitments you need to make, convictions you need to have, and passions you need to pursue.

And if you’re asking under your breath, why should I have to work so hard to get along with that creep?  Then remember, Jesus died for the sin of disunity.  The trinity is one, and we only glorify God when we are one.  Unity is our witness to the watching world.  God calls us to put others first.  The Church is most powerful and influential when it is unified.  If Christ can humble Himself to be a man and go to the cross, then you can humble yourself and commit to these five qualities.  How do you labor to the point of exhaustion to produce unity?  Verse 8 is primarily directed at how you deal with Christians.

1  You think the same–be harmonious

Be harmonious–be in harmony–you play the same tune.  How many of you played in a band or orchestra or ensemble?  How many of you sang in a band, group, ensemble or choir?  I played the trumpet and sang in every group possible and directed both bands and singing groups–and when doing so, you are committed to harmony.  All different voices and different instruments are playing the same tune in the same key.

Just like different instruments and voices sound totally unique, yet to play in harmony is to commit to play the assigned notes, in key, following the conductor, to work together with others

to make a beautiful symphony together.  To be in harmony in the Church is to follow our great conductor, Jesus Christ, playing the notes found in His Word and working together in order to accomplish a unified harmony that glorifies God.

The Greek word harmonious means same-minded, or think the same, and it reflects an inward attitude of unity in aim and purpose.  It doesn’t mean uniformity, where everything is exactly the same.  Nor does it mean unanimity, where there is 100% agreement.  It doesn’t mean all the same tastes, gifts or habits, but a common mindset.  To get along with others you need to be committed, to think the same–to try to understand their position, to put yourself in their shoes, and think like they might think–literally it is to try to express the same thought.  Plus you have to put some effort into remembering that they’re a part of the same team, on the same side of the battle, working for the same Master, and fighting the same enemy.

Commit to be of the same mind, like Romans 12:16 says, “Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.”

Or listen to the way Paul charges the Philippians in his letter that focuses on unity in 1:27 to 28, “Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; 28 in no way alarmed by your opponents—which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God.”

So in the conflict with that Christian, choose to be of the same mind; seek to be in harmony even though you’re different, commit to agree on the same Savior and the same Gospel.   But Peter takes it a step further–in your dealings with believers . . .

2  You feel the same—sympathetic

The Greek word for sympathetic is to share the same feeling.  This is a heart of compassion for others.  In fact, sympathetic describes a readiness to enter into and share the feelings of others and to unite with them in sorrow or in joy.  It means co-suffering.  It is exactly what Romans 12:15 says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.”  And 1 Corinthians 12:26, “And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.”  Is that you?

Do you hurt when others hurt?  Are you joyful when there’s joy?  How do you approach others you’re in conflict with them–like Judge Roy Bean?  You shoot them when they violate your law?  Like Forrest Gump, you never know what you’re going to get?

Do you feel what others feel so you can respond with sensitivity?  People who have true sympathy generally do not say, “I know how you feel.”  Since they know how you feel, they also know how unhelpful it is to hear someone say, “I know how you feel.”  True sympathy is a fairly quiet, time-intensive, presence-intensive way of treating others.

Peter wants Christians to treat other believers as if they were experiencing the same pain.  Why should we?  Because this is what Jesus does for you.  Using a kindred verb to sympathetic in verse 8 here, the writer of Hebrews says in 4:15, “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.”

Commit to feel the same–feel their pain, not just yours.  Genuine Christians must not be insensitive or indifferent, even towards the lost when in pain, or struggling through this life.  It is easy to crawl into your own cave and forget everyone else.  Commit to feel the same as they do.  In fact with a Christian, Peter adds . . .

3 You are the same—brotherly

Brotherly is the Greek word Philadelphoi. My friends from Philadelphia, which means the city of brotherly love, tell me the city is nothing like its name—no love there.  But the first part of the Greek word, Phileo, is the verb to love–not the love of sacrifice, agape, but the love of friendship–the love of affection, the love that describes someone you really like.

So Peter says commit to like your spiritual family.  Don’t treat Christians like strangers, acquaintances or as distant relatives–treat them as close family, even though family can have serious squabbles and exchange harsh words very rarely do they break up over it.  Brotherly is seeking to be kindly friends with Christians you disagree with–even if it’s your wife or friends or relatives.

This is lost today in many churches–you “like” Christians until they rub you the wrong way, then they’re a pest, an issue, a person to avoid, talk about or malign.  But if you saw each other accurately, biblically, truthfully as family members, true friends, as your true brother or true sister in Christ—were in union with them, closer than any blood relative could be, you would seek to understand, care for and treat them as the best of family.  In reality, Christians are your forever family.

Never forget, you are not a Christian unless you love your family in Christ.  First John 4:20 says, “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.”  In trial, under persecution, and in conflict, God wants you to never forget that Christians are your family friends.  So to get along we need to think the same, feel the same, and own that we are the same.

4  You react the same—kindhearted

Next Peter adds kindhearted, which is to be tenderhearted as opposed to being hardhearted.  The Greek word is describing the internal organs, which were regarded as the seat of emotions, and denotes compassionate tenderness toward the needs of others.  Your muscles are to be hard, but your internal organs are soft.  When getting along with others, you’re to be soft to them.  How soft?  Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”

As you deal with people, sometimes you can become calloused.  I know too many Christian leaders who have walked away from working with people because they were worn out by constant demand.  But in contrast, you see the Lord Jesus in the gospels often described as being deeply touched, moved with compassion towards others.  God, who became a man, even wept (John 11:35).

Look carefully at Matthew 9:36, for it contains a key to conflict, “Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.”  Jesus was amongst people, saw people and felt compassion for them.  In the past, I have done a lot of refereeing in the church, and over 98% of the time the conflict was resolved or put away when the two parties got together and talked to each other, saw each other face-to-face and openly shared with each other.

Hard Christians are distant from people–soft Christians are close to people.  Peter says, be softly kindhearted, literally feel generous in your belly–genuine concern for others.  And finally in verse 8, you think the same, feel the same, own that we are the same, react the same and lastly . . .

5  You treat others as the same–humble in spirit

Humble in spirit means to be lowly and bowed down in your mind.  It is the recognition of one’s personal insufficiency, but the powerful sufficiency of God’s Spirit and God’s Word.  The word humble in spirit means you believe you can’t but God can.  To be humble in spirit means you have embraced your own sinfulness as a Christian and your desperate need for God’s Spirit to fill you in order not to be in the flesh.

Practically, a humble spirit means you don’t fully trust yourself nor your thinking completely on any matter except God’s Word.  Being humble minded means you will admit when you are wrong–you don’t make excuses.  You refrain from boasting or bragging.  You are not dogmatic about your opinions and you have a level of uncertainty about others since you can never fully know their heart.

You are a forgiven sinner who still battles with the flesh, and you know they are a forgiven sinner who still battles with the flesh so we treat each other humbly.  You can actually submit to others who are sinful, because you are sinful as well, and you trust God for putting those authorities in your life.  A humble spirit is one who realizes just how needy you really are.  You see yourself as low, weak, poor, insufficient, and insignificant–therefore you are careful how you treat others, especially those you’re in conflict with.

That’s a “how to get along with others” commitment.  Anytime there is unresolved conflict between you and another Christian, there is a lack of one of those five quality adjectives.  But Peter doesn’t stop with your commitment, he gives you . . .

Second  Getting along guidelines

In verse 9, how do we get along with others–what do we do?  “Not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.”

Here is the right response to conflict–here is the right reaction when attacked unjustly.  There are two participles in verse 9 which describe the biblical response of all believers to hostile non-Christians–the two verbs are “not returning” and “giving”.  We’re not to return evil or insult, but on the contrary are to give a blessing.

It seems the primary focus in verse 9 is unbelievers, but sadly from time to time you may be attacked by so-called Christians.  When you are, their salvation is in question.  And when you attack other Christians verbally or otherwise, your salvation is uncertain.  And Peter isn’t talking about correcting someone’s errant doctrine.  We must speak the truth in love, even if it makes others look bad.

Peter is talking about your reaction to unfair treatment primarily from non-Christians.  Peter literally says if a believer is not retaliating to evil with more evil, he must not start–and if he is giving back evil for evil, he must stop immediately.  The word evil describes one who has the inherent quality of badness–not just someone who says bad words or does bad things.  The people Peter describes here are bad to the bone.

And like Romans 12:17, “Never pay back evil for evil to [whom?] anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men.”  Do not return (literally give back) evil (or give back insults).  The word insult refers to a type of speech which is an abusive attack against someone–cursing and reviling a person or group.

Again, remember the example of Christ in 1 Peter 2:23?  “And while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously.”  What is God’s guideline in a conflict?

#1  Do not retaliate

What happens when you do retaliate?  Evil is multiplied and your testimony is weakened.  To pay back evil for evil and insult for insult is like washing of dirt with more dirt.  Rather than retaliate, believers are to respond by

#2  Give a blessing instead

The term blessing is the Greek word where we get our English word for eulogy.  It means to praise or speak well of others—it’s showing active kindness and evoking God’s beneficence towards them.

Are you picking up what Peter’s putting down here?  Those who are attacking you, persecuting you, insulting you–don’t retaliate, but speak well of them.  Simply, the Christian’s response to evildoing is returning good for evil.  Whenever the urge to get even comes over you, it’s crucial to realize that retaliation is a sign of spiritual babyhood, while restraint is a mark of maturity.

How do you bless others?  You bless others by loving them unconditionally, by praying for their salvation, or by expressing gratitude for them and most importantly, by forgiving them.  Do you remember when Peter asked Jesus in Matthew 18:21 to 22, “’Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.’”  Unlimited forgiveness.

Then Jesus told the story of the slave who was forgiven all his debts by His master, but didn’t forgive those who owed him money.  So the master punished the slave’s blatant double standard with torture until he repaid, concluding the parable in verse 35, “My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.”  You’ve been forgiven all your sins by your Heavenly Master, how can you not forgive those few sins others commit against you?  The Gospel demands we return evil with good.

Next Peter concludes verse 9 with, “For you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.”  Literally, you were called to freely receive a gift.  The reason Peter gives for such a positive reaction to hostile behavior is the call of the believer to inherit a blessing.  What blessing?  “Called” in verse 9 looks back to your conversion.  This is the fourth time Peter reminds his readers of their call–God is telling you the reason you can give blessing to those who inflict personal insult or injury on you is because you have been given so great a salvation.

You received mercy instead of wrath, freedom instead of slavery, adoption instead of rejection, safety instead of danger, and eternal joy instead of eternal torment.  Peter says to all Christians–you have received the divine, unmerited and eternal blessing of complete forgiveness of an unpayable debt to a holy God and heavenly life forever with Him, rather than His deserved wrath and vengeance for your sin.

Therefore, to freely grant forgiveness to someone who has hurt you, insulted you or done evil to you is a do-able choice, since the offenses against you are so small compared to those offenses you have committed against God Himself.  But is this what God has expected all along?  Some Jewish tradition said, “Make ‘em pay—an eye for an eye.”  But Jesus says in

Matthew 5:38 to 39, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.”

How do you get along with others?  You commit to conduct yourself in a verse 8 way and follow the verse 9 guideline of returning good for evil when it is done to you.  This is what God has expected from His followers all along.  And Peter proves that with . . .

#2  The Confirmation for Getting Along

In verses 10 to 12 Peter quotes from Psalm 34:12 to 16 to confirm the importance of getting along with others, even the unsaved.  Get this–Psalm 34 was written by David when he was fleeing Saul, living in danger among pagans.  So here Peter quotes Psalm 34 to encourage believers living in danger of persecution from pagans.  Peter defends the importance of getting along and proves the authority of getting along by quoting from the Old Testament.  The Psalm and Peter’s apostolic comments show us three important steps to getting along with others involving our passions, behavior and motives.

First  Getting along—desire

Verse 10a says, “”For, ‘The one who desires life, to love and see good days.’”  The first word “for” is not in Psalm 34, but is Peters comment to show he is confirming what he just taught in verses 8 and 9.  David was on the run in enemy territory, in fear of being killed, and he makes this sweet observation—“The one who desires life, to love and see good days.”

This is the pursuit of happiness, the longing of every heart in this room.  Every one of you desires to love life and to see good days.  True?  Then don’t forget, the person you’re in conflict with desires to love life and see good days too.  They’re the same as you and maybe you’re the one who’s in the way of their desire.  You could be the obstacle in the way of their pursuit of happiness.

Verses 10 to 12 have been called an ancient recipe for a happy life.  But how is it possible to love life and see good days when you are being persecuted like the readers of 1 Peter are?  To love life means to live zestfully, to participate in life with fullness, overflowing with richness–it’s the bomb–the best.  The word usage points to the quality of life, not the length.  This is the Christian who really loves life to the fullest.

To see good days is living a life which is beneficial and worthwhile–not empty or meaningless.  Good days have purpose and meaning.  David and Peter are not thinking about easy, pleasant, sunshiny days but of days that are full of rich, spiritual fruit.  There are days in pastoral ministry that are so hard I really want to die and go home to heaven.  But for the most part, along with my amazing wife and children, studying God’s Word to feed to this great congregation and training men for future ministry is so worthwhile, purposeful and rich–my life is the bomb–the best!

And only Jesus Christ would actually suggest that his followers can have good days, a good time, under the threat of persecution.  But for that to happen, there are some things that must be done.

Second  Getting along–activities

Read the second half of verse 10 and all of verse 11, “must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit. 11 He must turn away from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it.”  Every one of the underlined words is a command in the Greek text.  There are words and actions that must be avoided or done in order for you to get along with others, especially in a hostile world.  Violate these and you’ll find yourself in an accelerating conflict–but honor these steps and you will find your conflict diminish and in your heart, you will be able to love life and see good days.

WITH YOUR MOUTH–verse 10 says “you”

Verse 10b, “must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit.”  The apostle James says, like a horse, put a bridle on your talk and hold it back from galloping headlong into evil and lies.  The command “to keep” means to cease, to cause to stop, to quiet—rudely, to SHUT UP when it comes to evil or mean words.

There is no place for harsh, vial, unprofitable, cussing, degrading or impure speech on the part of the Christian–especially in conflict.  Nor any room for speaking deceit, saying one thing but meaning another.  No hypocritical talk–Proverbs 6:16 to 17, God hates a lying tongue.  You will not know any good days until you learn to control your tongue.

WITH YOUR BEHAVIOR–verse 11 says “you”

He must turn away from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it.” Verse 11 actually starts with an “and” in the Greek text, not listed in the English here.  That “and” connects the commands about your speech with the commands about your actions meaning you can’t get along with others merely by adjusting your mouth–you need to change your behavior.  The path to happiness in this life involves both speaking and doing.

“To turn away” means to steer clear of, to cease, to swear away.  You are about to hit a cat on the road and you swerve to miss it.  Peter and David say, when you see evil, you steer around it–you swerve to miss it; you turn the other way; you go a different direction.  In military terms, you take evasive action to evil, whatever its nature or form.  You reject evil.  You leave the party, you turn off the computer, you get out of the house, you stop being friends.

But the void left by the negative should be filled in by the positive.  You do good, morally good, useful and beneficial behavior.  Do you wanna grow?  Do you want to become more like Christ?  Do you want to be sanctified?  It isn’t done merely by avoiding evil–it is also done by pursuing good.  You must do both.  Stop sinning and start serving.  For many, it is the very act of starting to serve, which actually helps the believer stop the sinning.  Getting along with others is not merely avoiding bad, it is doing good.

And Peter adds two more commands—“he must seek peace and pursue it.”  You have to work at it, fight for it, put effort into making peace.  There are some people who love nothing more than to find fault in others, stir up controversy and make trouble–and if you are one, please be offended today, and repent.

God does not want any Christian arsonists, those who start fires or even those who throw verbal gas on a conflict about to go out.  Our Lord expects all His children to be spiritual firemen.  We not only don’t start conflict fires, we put all of them out.  God commands you to seek peace–literally to zealously look for it, aggressively search for it, to strive to find peace.

In a conflict, your goal is to search out a way to find peace without compromising God’s Word.  In fact, Peter commands you to pursue peace–the word is used of hunting game or tracking down a quarry.  Pursue means to hurry up, press hard and go after making peace.  A Christian should want peace badly.  Do you wanna be happy?

Jesus said in Matthew 5:9, “Blessed [happy] are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”  Those who learn to get along with others are those who seek and pursue peace.  But why should we, Peter?  What’s our motive?

Third  Getting along—motives

Read verse 12, “For the eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous, and His ears attend to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”  “The eyes of the Lord” is the Old Testament phrase telling you of God’s caring watchfulness over His own chosen people, those He’s made righteous through the work of His Son on the cross.  Peter wants you to be reminded here of God’s omniscient awareness of every detail of your life.  He watches both the persecuted and the persecutor–He knows both those who submit to Him and those who oppose Him.

God unceasingly observes our conduct, speech, purposes, aspirations, troubles and tears.  And “the ears of the Lord” is Him listening to our cry.  He literally bows down to catch our faintest whisper in prayer.  And because of His all-knowing attentiveness, He hears our prayers, listens to our pleas, and embraces our petitions.  God is always for His own children, but He delights to answer the prayers of those who walk in obedience as they dependently live out verses 8 to 12.

But the face of the Lord”–which points to His judgment.  In this context, His face represents His anger and displeasure–and it is “against those who do evil” and disobey His Word.  What’s your motivation for getting along?  God knows your heart and blesses those who walk with Him by pursuing unity, and opposes those who disobey Him by fostering disunity.  Make no mistake, Christian–those who have been made righteous will live righteously and obediently.  But those who have not been made righteous will live unrighteous, disobediently and do evil.

Christians have always lived in a hostile world, but we can get along, love life, see good days when we walk dependently in the Spirit, following God’s Word in these verses.  But I can imagine one of you saying, “But Peter, that’s not the way I am.  You’re asking me to be something I’m not.”  He would answer, “If you are born again, if the Spirit of God really dwells in you, if Christ is now your treasure and God your hope, then the seed of all these traits is in you, and they will flourish if you go on trusting in God’s grace and Word.”

Don’t you love that Christ declares you can live abundantly, blessed, and full of life; even in the midst of conflict?  Sure there will be some who will be impossible to get along with–it is then you trust Romans 12:18, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.”  Unity takes work, but the fruit is a family you enjoy, a church you love, Christian friends for life, and a strong witness to the lost.  This is what the early church had in Acts 2 and we have now.

Do you need to repent of speech or behavior that does not cultivate unity in your marriage, home, workplace, school or church?  Are you willing to commit to think the same, feel the same, own that we are the same, react the same and treat others as the same from verse 8?  Will you stop all forms of revenge and seek to actually do good to your enemies or those you are in conflict with?

Are you sufficiently overwhelmed by God’s forgiveness of your sins to the point that you desire to forgive those who hurt you?  Like Jesus said to the Pharisee in Luke 7:47, “For this reason

I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.”  Have you been forgiven much or little?  Does it show?

As we close, turn in your Bibles to Philippians chapter 2.  This letter is about unity, and Paul says this in verses 5 to 8, “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

Why is this here?  As a powerful example (an illustration) so we would live out verses 1 to 4, “Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, 2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. 3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”

If Christ would do all that for us, humble Himself that far, then Paul asks, won’t you humble yourself and be one?

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ABOUT THIS PREACHER

Chris is the teaching pastor at Faith Bible Church - Murrieta.
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