Bless Those Who Bruise You

On the way over this morning, that bridge — I call it my revelatory bridge — that I’ve crossed fifteen thousand times in the last 35 years, I suppose, walking. I don’t like cars, so I live near where I work. I was looking up, and you can see it shining through the window. It is a gorgeous day, God has given us. Absolutely stunningly gorgeous. And we’re downtown. I mean, I lived for three years in Pasadena. You can’t see five blocks in Pasadena because of the smog. For three weeks, I didn’t know there was a mountain in my backyard, Mount Wilson, and then it blew away, and there was a mountain.

Here we are in the city. The buildings have edges. The sky is blue. The air is crisp and clean. Even walking across fifteen lanes of freeway, it smells good. And I just thought to myself, “What a conflicted world we live in.” Yesterday I prayed for Nicaragua. Today we’re praying for Niger, between Nigeria and Algeria, and praying through the world. Nigeria, almost everybody in Nigeria is dirt poor, just eking out a living.

And then there’s 52 people blown to smithereens by a bomb. And then there’s cancer, and there’s babies born dead. And you just look up, and you feel, “I just wish it was all blue. I just wish it was all crystal clean, deep-breath mornings like this.” And then you look into your own heart and you say, “God, there’s a lot of corruption left to be removed.” And that’s the way 1 Peter sounds to me.

You read this book, and joy is everywhere. “[Though] if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith — more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire — may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:6–7).

So hope fully in this. Don’t set your hearts on beautiful mornings. You’re going to go blind one day before you die. Clouds are going to come over this. Bombs may take out that beautiful downtown. Don’t set your hope fully on this. This is going to come in its due time. So 1 Peter just feels to me so realistic to me, and so helpful. It makes joy prominent and preeminent and is not the least naive about the world we live in, either politically or physically.

So Father, as we go in here, this is where we live. This is where we live. We have mornings like this, where we are drenched with present beauty and grace, and we need to be able to receive it with thanksgiving and enjoy it from you, honor you with it, bless you with it. And know that night comes, when no man will enjoy like this. And we will have to have a hope something deeper. So go deep with us now. Take us into the riches of this book, I pray. And so fit us for joy in the best of times and the worst of times, I pray through Christ. Amen.

Born Retaliators

So we’ve arrived at 1 Peter 3:9. He had just come through giving examples of how citizens have a humble submissive spirit towards emperors and governors because they are sent to punish the evil and praise the good. And examples of servants who have a humble submissive spirit toward masters and then wives who have a humble and submissive spirit towards husbands and husbands who have an honoring, caring, tenderhearted, thoughtful, knowledgeable, co-heir relation with their wives, with a view to keeping the lines between God and them and her open.

And then he said in 1 Peter 3:8, “All of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and [lowliness].” So you hear the theme. The theme is lowly, humble, a bent towards deferring and honoring appropriate authority, not getting your back up and demanding your way. And he’s going somewhere. And this will run right through to the end, this demeanor. And so here it is now in 1 Peter 3:9, “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling.”

But what do you do instead of that? Every one of you, in little measures today probably and maybe in the days to come, big measures, somebody will say something to you or do something to you that, “I don’t like what you just said. It’s not what I wanted to hear.” And every one of you — this is what I was thinking on the bridge when I said there remains corruption in me — every one of us are born retaliators.

You do not have to learn to hit back. You don’t have to learn to be mad at somebody who crosses your will. You don’t learn that that’s you. That is you — the fallen you. That’s not like three levels up from the bottom of you, and you’re really sweet at the bottom. The bottom is selfish. The bottom is “Don’t talk to me that way. Don’t treat me that way.”

That’s the bottom. So this letter is absolutely radical, calling us, you’re not going to be that way anymore, be that way anyway. You’re not going to be that way anymore. Something else is going to happen down here so that there’s a different kind of reaction. So this is the don’t: “Don’t repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling.”

Jesus’s Teachings Through Paul

And notice, just before we keep going, he said in 1 Peter 3:8, “And all of you [you Christians],” and then he doesn’t seem to give any indication here that he’s talking about our relationship to the outside world. It’s just general. So I take this just right across the board. You’ve got marriages, you’ve got kids, you’ve got small groups, you’ve got churches, You’ve got neighborhoods, you’ve got political settings. And right across the board, this is what he’s saying, “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, [the alternative is] bless” (1 Peter 3:9).

There are whole articles and books written about the “dominical” sayings in 1 Peter. That is, the sayings of Jesus and what makes 1 Peter so authentic in its apostolic origin is that very few of them are explicit like,

[Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, [bless those who harm you].” (Matthew 5:43–44)

It’s just here. It’s just here. It’s just kind of lying there because Peter was there. Peter was just absorbed in Jesus’s teachings, and this is the way Jesus talked. He used this kind of language: bless.

Called to Bless

So what does that mean? Bless. It’s words with a heart behind them. You’re not blessing somebody if, while you say kind things to them, you hate them. That’s not blessing, that’s hypocrisy. So blessing calls for a change in here. If I’m going to bless you, that means I will your good. I will your good. I want good to come to you. And I put it into some words.

Words. All kinds of different words. It’s not just one word, but just I’m coming back to you with words that carry will for your good. “You just hurt me, but I don’t want to hurt you. I don’t want this relationship to be about hurt.” So blessing comes from a disposition of I want your well-being.

“To this you were called” (1 Peter 3:9). Now, one of the things that’s really important, I think, to see here is that this is true for servants and for all. So notice back, I just went back to 1 Peter 2:20–21, this is spoken to servants: “If when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called.”

Okay, did you get that? Here we are at 1 Peter 3:9 again: “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called.” So this is 1 Peter 3:9, and right here is 1 Peter 2:21 “For to this you have been called.” So, doing good and suffering for it is what you’ve been called to, servants. And all of you, finally, all of you, you were called not to revile.

The point I’m making is when he was working his way through citizens, servants, wives, and husbands, he wasn’t giving unique commands. He was just applying general Christian heart issues and commands to specific categories.

So, there’s a special way that the Christian humility and deference works its way out for servants, a special way it works its way out in the political setting, a special way it works its way out at home between husbands and wives, but it’s true for absolutely everybody — married, single, old, young, male, female. That’s what I’m drawing your attention to here.

Suffered as an Example and Suffered for You

So there we are back at 1 Peter 2:21 where it says, “For to this [suffering while doing good] you have been called.” And the call here is because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example.

Notice two things. We didn’t spend any time in the first two chapters, but “for you” and “leaving you an example” are two very different ways that the cross works on us, right? Liberals, the old liberals early 20th century simply took the cross and Jesus and his sufferings as exemplary. They did not like anything about substitutionary atonement like: “He died for you. He bore wrath for you. Your guilt came on him. He suffered your punishment.” That kind of talk.

The old liberals just don’t want anything to do with that pagan, ritualistic, primitive blood religion — just “he is a loving person and was willing to suffer, and you should be a loving person and be willing to suffer too.” And it says that: “Leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:21). He suffered leaving you an example, and they leave out this word: “[He] suffered for you.” And a few verses later, it’s going to say, he bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.

So in the cross, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater — conservative, liberal, whatever it’s called. He died in our place to bear our sins, and he died to give us an example for how to respond to mistreatment. Both are true. Both are here.

And the call, this call right here, is flowing out of Jesus’s life. If you come to Jesus, you’re called to suffer. That’s what it says, right? If you come to him, if he’s your Lord, if he’s your Savior, your Treasure, there’s a call on your life, and it’s a call to suffer for doing good. Not to retaliate when you suffer. That’s the way the world is. If you want to do that, you might as well just leave Jesus alone because that’s not what he’s about. That’s just copycatting what you were born with. First birth stuff, not second birth stuff.