Living in Unity and Community as the Church 1 Peter 3:8-12

Living in Unity and Community as the Church

1 Peter 3:8-12

Truth Taught – God has called us to seek unity while living within the context of Christian Community

 

Introduction

Peter has been teaching us that, as Christians, we are exiles; this world is not our home. While living as exiles, God does not want us to hide but to stand out and impact this world with truth and love. He’s said things like, go over and above so that you will be noticed. Do not seek to hide in culture but stand out in good works and love. Today, we are going to see that we are to stand out by our Christian character and virtue. So, we are not to hide in the world and not be noticed which is like a Christian wearing camouflage, but we are to do good, love others, and stand out in society for our good works, like a hunter wearing bright orange. God wants us to do good to others and be noticed. God does not want us to be chameleon Christians but hunter-orange Christians.

As Christians, we have a very intense and peculiar calling. Our calling comes from God to be His representatives in exile. The world is to look at us and see indications that God is our Father. Our calling’s intensity comes from the fact that God has called us. The peculiar nature of our calling comes from the fact that we are to live out one worldview while living among those with another worldview.

Our lives must be different than the lives of the lost around us. We are called to be a peculiar people.

1 Peter 2:9 (ESV)

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

Our passage today teaches us that we are to live this way within the community of the lost world and also especially within the community of believers, the church. The qualities God shows us today in our text are qualities that will encourage true fellowship within the church community. These virtues will sustain Christian community and glory to God.

Prayer

As I read the list of Christian virtues that God has called us to, ask Him to reveal areas where you need some improvement. Then seek His grace to grow in that area. These are virtues Jesus modeled while on earth; let’s seek to be like Jesus in living out these godly virtues.

1 Peter 3:8–12 (ESV)

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. 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.”

  1. The Virtues that Hold Christian Community Together

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.

  1. unity of mind

Here, literally like-mindedness. If we are to enjoy a rich Christian community then we must all be on the same page. We must share similar beliefs. We must be willing to act on those beliefs. As a unified family of believers, we must share a common heritage of faith. This is why we take membership seriously. It would not be beneficial to the individual seeking to be part of our church nor would it be beneficial to the church to stray very far is this area.

If we have doctrinal differences, we cannot be unified in mind or like-minded. This will create division not unity. As believers, we have rejected our former useless way of life, as Peter calls it, and embraced truth together.

1 Peter 1:18–19 (ESV)

18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.

We can be unified even though we come from different social settings, different races, etc. It is this shared belief that unites us into one community.

  1. sympathy

Here the Greek is literally, sharing the same feeling. We might even say share the same emotions. Here in the Church it’s important that we share one another’s joys and sorrows. We hurt when our brother or sister in Christ hurts. We rejoice with them in good times and weep with them in times of sorrow just like a family would.

Romans 12:15 (ESV)

15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.

It’s true sympathy that unites us into one community.

  1. C. brotherly love

This is the idea of true brotherly affection for one another. How is brotherly love shown within a Christian community? It’s shown as we serve one another. How are ways God has called you to an unselfish service to someone within your Church? Brotherly love and affection are shown through selfless service to each other.

Brotherly love unites us into one community.

  1. a tender heart

This is closely connected to sympathy but is really more intense. In the original its being so affected by another’s pain that you’re impacted emotionally and even physically. It has in mind something of nausea or the bowels. When someone in our fellowship suffers, does it cause you on some level to be affected emotionally and even physically? When someone in our fellowship suffers do you lose sleep? This is what tenderhearted or kindhearted means.

Being tender hearted unites us into one community.

  1. a humble mind

This is best seen as Paul explains it in . . .

Philippians 2:3 (ESV)

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

So, humility of mind is assessing others within the Church as more important than you are. They may or may not be more important, but in your mind, you assess them as more important and worthy of your attention and service.

Having a humble mind unites us into one community.

Do you see how these qualities are the glue that holds Christian unity and community together? Which one do you need to work on? Ask God to give you the grace needed for growth in this area and then go and use this Christian virtue within our community of faith. These are virtues for all Christians within the local church. You might say well, I’m not very good at this particular virtue. That’s all the more reason to go out and do it. Did you learn how to ride a bike by reading about it or by doing it? You were not very good at first but then, in time, you became good at riding a bicycle. You won’t be very good at first but in time you will get better.

  1. Actions That Hold Christian Community Together

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.

Within the Church community we are also called to be the ones where evil ends. There is a saying among pastors that goes something like: pastoring would be a great job if it wasn’t for all the people. Now I don’t subscribe to that saying at all. There is some small bit of truth there for all Christians. Church community would be great except for all the people. Here’s the reality: if you are a part of a local Church community for a long time, you will probably be frustrated with someone else or someone else will sin against you.

How do we handle that sort of thing as a Christian? The world says to get even or get one up on them. Even the Roman Empire saw humility and kindheartedness as weakness. God desires that we are the ones where evil goes to die. The initial response is to get even when someone wrongs us. We have been called out of darkness into God’s wonderful light as a family of Christians living in community with each other. God tells us to not answer evil with more evil but answer evil with blessing.

Matthew 5:38–45 (ESV)

38 “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 the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

The evil Peter has in mind is especially evil speech.

let him keep his tongue from evil

and his lips from speaking deceit;

When another person sins against us how do we respond? It’s not going to help unity when we respond with more evil. Unity begins to break down. Rather than retaliating, reviling, cursing, speaking bad of, or gossiping, God’s desire is that we bless that person. We do something nice for them, we speak well of them in areas where we can, we pray for them, and we can forgive them. All these things are included in the word blessing. Then, notice a very strange thing happens as we bless others; we cause evil to die.

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.

Only God knows exactly what that blessing we receive will look like. It may be simply that we can see that through God’s grace we were obedient. Perhaps it’s something more that God does for us? Perhaps it’s Christian maturity? Perhaps it’s a good night’s sleep because we are at peace with God?

The Apostle Peter now quotes from Psalm 34. The reason he draws from this Psalm is because the premise is that God opposes those who do evil.

Psalm 34:11–18 (ESV)

11    Come, O children, listen to me;

I will teach you the fear of the Lord.

12    What man is there who desires life

and loves many days, that he may see good?

13    Keep your tongue from evil

and your lips from speaking deceit.

14    Turn away from evil and do good;

seek peace and pursue it.

15    The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous

and his ears toward their cry.

16    The face of the Lord is against those who do evil,

to cut off the memory of them from the earth.

17    When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears

and delivers them out of all their troubles.

18    The Lord is near to the brokenhearted

and saves the crushed in spirit.

Psalm 34 originally applied to King David and his readers. Now Peter directly applies these truths to us, the Church. God delivered David from the dangers that went along with his sojourns among the Philistines and so God will also deliver the First Century Christians sojourning among the Romans and God will also deliver us who are sojourners here in America. God will do this as we seek righteousness and abhor evil. That’s why Peter quotes,
“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.

So, whether it was God’s people in David’s day or the New Covenant community today, make no mistake God seeks out and shows kindness and blessings to His people who pursue righteousness.

  1. Motivation for Christian Community

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.”

Peter continues his Psalm 34 quote in verse 12 of 1 Peter 3. His desire here is to give us motivation to live out these godly virtues within the Christian community on a consistent basis.

So, what is it that would motivate us to practice the virtues he listed and to answer evil with a blessing? It would be to know God is watching and God stands ready to reward righteousness.

God is sovereign in all He does. He sees all. He knows all. What He says, He always does. So, the idea is that when we act not according to our desires or inclinations but act according to God’s commands, He sees those acts of righteousness. He sees and His ears are open when we pray for help.

When Peters writes that the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, this means that it’s God’s eyes of kindness and special care.

God is fully aware of everything in the lives of His people. He sees us when we are obedient and His face shines upon us.

This is not a health and wealth gospel that says God is dependent on our actions before He blesses. This is a loving Father desiring His children to obey, and when we do, He stands ready to bless us as such.

We know that all of this is because of the cross of Jesus Christ where He took on our sin and bore our wrath. He saved us so we could live out these virtues for the good of the church and for the glory of God.

Application

Our natural tendency when we are sinned against is to lash out or to get one over on them or to return evil for evil. God is telling us that within the Church community, we must be the ones who stop the evil not keep it going. To retaliate is to send evil along its way. To bless is to stop evil in its tracks and put it to death.

As we look to these virtues, we must make a self-assessment to see how we line up and when we can by God’s grace improve to obey these guides for our lives. What virtue do you need to work on? Remember the best way is to practice it.

 

 

*Resources Used:

Teaching 1 Peter by Angus MaCleay

1 Peter by Karen Jobes

1 Peter by David Helm

1 Peter by John MacArthur

1 Peter by Peter Davids

1 Peter by Wayne Grudem

1 Peter by Edmond Clowney

 

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