8 Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; 9 not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.
1 Peter 3:8-9
History and Context:
1 Peter 1:1 says, "Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia". From this we get the author of the letter, Peter, and the recipients of the letter, those dispersed among the five provinces of Asia minor. The author doesn't specifically say whether he is speaking to the Jews in those areas or the Gentiles. Peter was a man known for his passion and not always for his control. He was one of the inner three of Jesus' disciples. One of three to experience the transfiguration (Matthew 17), and one of three to be brought further in the Garden of Gethsemene (Matthew 26:37).
Peter starts out in chapter three, giving specific instructions to wives and then to husbands. Then in verse eight he begins talking to everyone. This new instruction now effects everybody, whether married or single, whether male or female, you must have compassion on one another, you must love one another. At this point it sounds great. Love one another implies that the other person is loving me back. But then he begins talking about not returning evil for evil. All of sudden we are not talking about loving someone that is loving us back, but loving someone who has hurt us, someone who has done evil things towards us. Suddenly this instruction has become much harder, much less comfortable. Peter tells us that we are to return evil with blessing.
The challenge is clear and is truly a challenge for all of us. It seems daily that we come into contact with someone who treats us wrong, sometimes by accident or through ignorance, other times through evil intentions. Either way the message is clear, we are to respond to evil with blessing, with love. It's easy, when someone cuts us off on the freeway, to respond with anger, but we should respond by blessing them. There are many different examples I could use of people hurting or insulting us, but our response should always be to bless them. That is what Peter said and more importantly that is what Jesus said when He told us to love our enemies and pray for those who spitefully use us (Matthew 5:44).
Lord, this is a difficult instruction and it is hard to do. But Lord, I want to do it. Help me to make decisions throughout my day to respond in love. Help me to bless those who hurt me or insult me. Help me to love them like you love them. In Jesus' name, Amen!