In today’s passage Peter gives some instruction for all Christians, no matter what their situation. This is guidance on how to live the Christian life. How do we walk this road following Jesus in a world that hates him and his followers?
Let’s remind ourselves of how Peter’s journey began.
As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will send you out to fish for people.’ At once they left their nets and followed him.
(Matthew 4:18-20, NIV)
That was the day that Peter was called. A fisherman by trade, he was at work when Jesus came along and called him. He became a disciple of Jesus and left everything to follow him. Did you notice how Jesus called him? “Come, follow me,” and invitation and instruction. Christ’s disciples are invited to follow him, to trust in him and go where he leads them, to listen to his instructions and, in faith, to obey them. Then Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” Christians have a new identity and role, a mission. Jesus would make them fishers of people, catching people up out of this dark world to being them into Christ’s kingdom. Call and mission. They go hand in hand.
Notice what Jesus doesn’t do. Jesus does not walk up to these fishermen, explain some theological concept to them to get them to understand, and then say goodbye and move along leaving them to their fishing. Their lives unchanged except for a new opinion on how to be right with God.
Jesus called them to a new life, a new mission. This is what it means to be a Christian. It’s not about having the right ideas. It’s also not about doing the right things either, and I hope you’ll see that today because I’m going to be talking about doing good and how Christians should live. Being a Christian is about faith in Jesus Christ, and true faith involves following in obedience. It involves living the life that God calls us to and empowers us to live.
Part of the new identity that we receive when we come to faith in Christ is a new purpose. Being a Christian is not just about getting to heaven. We look forward to heaven of course, but what about now? We believe that God is in control of all things and what that means is that we are here right now because that is how God has ordained things. Whatever your life situation is, wherever you are, God is in control, you belong to God, he has redeemed you, he is working in you to transform you and he can work through you to achieve his purposes. God can take a fisherman like Peter and turn him into a great apostle and missionary. God can work through all of us.
What we’re looking at today is the topic of Christian ethics: how to live a good life. Peter has been giving instruction on this in the areas of how to relate to government, how to relate to employers, how to relate to your spouse. Now as he begins to wrap up, he writes the word “Finally” and he comes back up to a bigger scale and gives general instructions for all of us.
Peter says to “be like-minded”. We must live this life together. God himself has brought us together and so we must maintain that unity in mission. How do we work together? How do we ensure that we’re all of the same mind? Focus on Jesus and following where he leads. If the followers are to be united, they need to keep their eyes on the leader. This is why it’s so important for each of us to practice the spiritual disciplines of Bible reading and prayer. It’s why, if you have kids, it is so important for you to tech them to read the Bible for themselves. Sit down with your children and read with them. Teach them how to pray. Talk to them about God. We must all follow the Leader, and if we do that, we’ll be united.
Sometimes we’ll have to take time to discern where Jesus is leading us but there are some things that are plain and true always. We are called always to be sympathetic, loving, compassionate and humble. No jostling for position. No hatred or hard-heartedness towards each other.
Peter tells us in verse 9:
“Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.”
There’s a cycle of evil in this world. They did this to us, so we’ll do that to them. They said something about me, so I’ll get them back. And it goes on and on and on and on, until we forget who started it or why, and it doesn’t really matter anymore anyway, because the hatred has taken over. Personal grudges become family feuds and it can continue for generations. Sometimes it’s overt and explodes in violence, sometimes it’s a cold-hearted contempt that simmers for years. It can happen on the small scale and the big scale. This kind of thing turns whole nations and races against each other.
Grace is the only thing that breaks this cycle. The grace to not return evil for evil, but to interrupt that cycle by blessing the one who hates you. If you’re a Christian, then you are called to this. Whoever started it, it stops with you. Because you belong to Jesus, and not to this world. You belong to the one who prayed for the forgiveness of the people killing him. You belong to the one who gave his life as an atonement for your sin. You belong to Jesus because of God’s amazing grace, and so grace is the way you must live.
Peter then quotes from Psalm 34:
‘Whoever would love life and see good days
must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech.
They must turn from evil and do good;
they must seek peace and pursue it.
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous
and his ears are attentive to their prayer,
but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.’
(1 Peter 3:10-12, NIV)
If you want a life that is lovely and good, listen to the one who made you and do what is right. Be honest. Turn from evil, don’t give into it. Seek peace.
This isn’t a guarantee that life will be rosy if you just do x, y and z. These are general principles, like the book of Proverbs. And this is a reminder that the life that God calls us to is a good one. He leads us to green pastures. He longs to bless us.
This isn’t a prosperity gospel, or some guarantee that life will be great. Peter was writing to people enduring persecution and hatred. This isn’t a list of things that you must do to be saved. We are saved by putting our faith in Jesus and his sacrifice in our place on the cross.
This is certain though: God sees and listens to the prayers of his children. He is with you in your struggles and he will give you the strength to go on.
The life of following Jesus can be hard sometimes. We sometimes must fight against ourselves and the temptation to give in to evil and hatred. Sometimes we’ll be mocked, excluded, or hated. But Jesus leads us to blessing. Even if we endure suffering in this world we belong to God, we know God and he will never let his children go.
Sovereign Lord, we pray that you would help us to be a light for grace in this dark world. Help us all to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, to take the time to feed ourselves on your holy word and to seek you in prayer. Fill us with your Holy Spirit and work in us and through us.
Lord, today would have normally been a united service where all the congregations in our group would meet together in Corglass. We miss those times of gathering together in greater numbers and without any need to be distant from one another. We miss the singing. We pray, Lord, for a swift end to this pandemic and the return of those things that we miss so dearly about our worship together.
But Lord, we thank you that we can still worship you, whether at home or in smaller numbers in a meeting house. You are still with us in power. Protect us and our loved ones we pray.
We pray for a decrease in the number of COVID-19 cases in our country, for the healing of the sick and for comfort for those who mourn.
We pray for our children returning to school. We ask that you protect them and their teachers, but also that they would enjoy the experience of learning and seeing their friends again.
We pray for justice and peace in America, an end to civil unrest and the injustice that gives rise to it.
We pray also for those we know now as we take a moment of silence.
We pray all these things in Jesus’ name.