Tag Archives: 1 Peter 3:8-12

How to be a peacemaker (shocking lessons from an “insane” person!)

3 Aug

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All week long, we’ve been looking at 1 Peter 3:8-12 where Peter teaches a very difficult thing to do: when people insult you, ask God to bless them.

Is Peter saying you can never defend yourself?  I would submit that Peter would answer, “No. You can defend yourself. But there is a right way and a right wrong to defend yourself.”

First of all, if you are abused, report it and get safe.  We live in a country where there is legal recourse to deal with abuse.  That is a very good thing.  Not all countries throughout history have been like this.  There are certainly Christians living in places around the world even today where they are physically abused, maybe sexually and emotionally too, and they have no recourse.  Imagine how difficult it must be for them to hear Peter’s words.  They might not be able to get safe.  They too, however, can bless those who persecute them.

Thankfully, ours is a country where abuse and persecution are not tolerated.  But I think here in his letter Peter is primarily thinking about how interpersonal relations in a church family can get ugly.  Meanness.  Unkindness. Gossip. In those cases he is not saying, “Do not stick up for yourself.”

He is saying that there is a difference between aggression and assertiveness.  We do not need to attack back.  It will only make things worse if you attack back.

I once heard Ravi Zacharias say: “When you throw mud at others, you not only get your hands dirty, but you lose a lot ground in the process.”  When people are evil to us, or insult us, we are not to get revenge.  Instead, as I said yesterday, if they insult you, eulogize ’em!

Peter supports his argument with a quote from the Old Testament.  Psalm 34:12-16 to be exact. Psalm 34 is a fascinating psalm written by the great poet, warrior, king of Israel David. And it has a wonderful backstory.  The subtitle of Psalm 34 tells us that David wrote this psalm as he was reflecting on a really difficult situation in his life.  At the time he was a fugitive, on the run from his father-in-law King Saul who wanted to kill David.  In 1 Samuel 21 we read that David made the surprising decision, after retrieving Goliath’s sword (the same Philistine Goliath from Gath whom David had killed years earlier), to go to enemy Philistine territory, and of all places the city of Gath.  Can you tell that David was under a lot of pressure and maybe not thinking straight?  He arrives at Gath, and the Philistine leaders there are very suspicious.  In their eyes David was the most well-known Philistine killer.  Not only had he killed their hometown hero Goliath, but in the years following, he had commanded Israelite armies that had killed thousands of other Philistines.  Now he is in their town, hoping for asylum?  David sees their reactions, their doubt, their fear, and he starts thinking “Uh-oh…did I just make a horrible decision coming here?” This would be the Philistines perfect opportunity to get their revenge on David. So what does he do?  He acts insane, to the point of allowing drool to dribble down his beard!  I encourage you to read the account for yourself.  It’s quite a vivid episode in David’s life.  Find out how the Philistines reacted to his insanity ploy!

That is what David was thinking about when he wrote Psalm 34.  The whole psalm is amazing and deserves lots of attention and further study, but Peter only quotes verses 12-16, so that will be my focus here.

I’ll start in Psalm 34 verse 11, “Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.” I see David in Psalm 34 as older man, wanting to pass on wisdom to his grandkids.  Telling them the story of the time he pretended to be crazy, and then saying these words.  And what does he say?

He starts with: “Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days…”

You probably don’t have to look hard to find people who love life and desire to see good days. So for those who want that, what do you have to do?  David has some specific instructions.

He says, “keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies. Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.”

Four things that line right up with Peter’s teaching, and can be summed with: control your mouth!  That means not speaking any evil or lies, no matter what has been done to you.  Then do good.  Turn from evil.  Finally, seek peace. Actually pursue it.

David is not just saying, “be a peaceful person;” he is saying the we should be actively pursuing peace.  Seek it out, make it happen. When you pursue something, you strive for it, and it often takes intense effort.

David, therefore, is not just reactive; he is teaching a proactive seeking of peace.  When our seminary president, Tony Blair, spoke at Faith Church a few years ago, he made a comment I’ll never forget, “mature Christians deflate drama.”  Peace-seekers reduce drama.  And that can be hard work, but it is necessary work in the life of a church, family, workplace, or neighborhood.

This does not mean you agree with people all the time.  It means that you handle things in such a way that drama is reduced.  This goes back to verse 9 and choosing not to react back, or fight back against someone who has been evil to you or insulted you.

Finally look at verse 12, where David personifies the Lord.  God is spirit.  He doesn’t have a body.  It’s hard to know how to depict God.  When I illustrated this part of the sermon, I chose a lion for the slide because there are times in the Bible when God is described as lion.  He’s not a lion.  But look at how David uses human body parts to teach us about the Lord.

Eyes – on the righteous

Ears – attentive to their prayer

Face – against those who do evil

What a comfort!  No matter what is going on in our lives, our God knows, our God hears, and our God defends.  That means we can take hope in the Lord and do good, loving those in the church family, even when people are unkind to us.  He knows, he is on the side of the righteous!

If they insult you, eulogize them!  Guess what I learned this week?  I should love eulogies!  I should be eulogizing all the time!

How to handle difficult people: When they insult you, eulogize ’em!

2 Aug

I learned a shocking thing about eulogies, and in this post I’m going to reveal what I learned.

This week we are studying 1 Peter 3:8-12, and so far we have learned the Top 5 adjectives that Peter says should describe a church family.  Now he gets to some verbs, some actions that members of a church family should practice.

Look at Verse 9 and we see the verb “paying back”, or as the NIV says “repay”.  This can be positive or negative.  You have to look at the context.  A payback can be very positive, right? When you borrow money, you pay it back.  That is good.  Or when someone is kind to you, then you are kind back.  Or you might pay it forward.  You are sitting at the drive through and the person in front of you pays for your meal, so you pay for the meal of the person behind you.  Those are awesome paybacks.

Then there are other not so awesome paybacks.  And that is the verb, the action Peter is talking about.  But he puts a tiny little three letter word in front of it, the word “not”.  Do not repay.  Do not do the negative paybacks. At a recent youth group pool party, I witnessed tons of paybacks.  A person would be standing on the edge of the pool, and another person nearby would push them in!  Guess what would happen five minutes later?  Yeah, paybacks.  I think we got to the point where there paybacks for paybacks for paybacks.

The first things Peter mentions is paying back evil for evil.  Don’t do that, he says.  The second thing he mentions is paying back insult with insult. Don’t do that either.

The word Peter uses for “insult” means “highly insulting and slanderous.”  We are not sure if Peter is referring to the method or the message, or both.  It doesn’t matter.  Don’t do either one.  Don’t speak with an insulting tone, and don’t speak insulting messages.  He is saying “Don’t pay back an insulting comment with an insult of your own.”

This requires huge amounts of self-control and love.  We need it in church families just as much as we need it in any family, any friendship, and workplace, any neighborhood.  Christians show self-control when someone treats us bad.

How about you?  Do you have trouble with self-control?  Has your mouth gotten you in trouble?   The escalation of insulting one another is rampant in our society, and it can happen in the church too.  Drama increases! What should we do when people are mean to us?

As Peter continues in verse 9, he gives us the answer.  Guess what?  He says the answer is eulogy!  See the word “Blessing”? In Greek this is the word from which we get our English word “eulogy.”

I have done a lot of eulogies in funerals.  But Peter doesn’t have a funeral in mind here.  He is saying “Eulogize people when they insult you!”  Now, when you are insulted, you might be inwardly wishing it was that person’s funeral!  But no, Peter is saying, bless them.  Here is the definition of eulogy, the specific word that Peter uses.  This definition blew me away, when I thought about how Peter uses it in the context of a person who has just been insulted!  The definition is “to ask God to bestow divine favor on, with the implication that the verbal act itself constitutes a significant benefit[1]

That is amazing.  When they insult you, eulogize ‘em! And it doesn’t mean you wish them dead!  It means you ask for God to bless them.

What’s more, Peter supports his teaching by saying that we Christians are called to eulogize people who insult us, so that we might inherit a eulogy.

Think about that.  If we bless people who insult us, or who are evil to us, that means that we will inherit a blessing.  Again, remember the definition of this word blessing, eulogy, “to ask God to bestow divine favor on.”  Would you like God to bestow his favor on you?  If so, we are to be the kind of people who ask God to bestow his favor on those who insult us or who are evil to us!

So now whenever someone says something mean to you, just put on a smile and say “I am going to eulogize you right now.”  They’ll give you a weird look.  So maybe don’t do that…they might misunderstand and think that you want them dead, which could make things worse!

Instead, you might just need to not say anything.  You know yourself.  When you are attacked, you might have a really hard time reacting with kindness.  If so, maybe the victory for you is to just respond with a smile, and pray silently in your thoughts that God would shine his favor on them.

You’ll have to evaluate the emotional temperature of the situation.  It may be that the person is so upset that they are not in a place to hear anything, even blessing.

For one of my college soccer games, we were playing another Christian college.  I played defense and my main job that game was to cover one-on-one an offensive guy from the other team.  So we battled a lot throughout the course of the game, and this guy had some attitude.

There we are, players from two Christians schools playing a level of soccer that was maybe the quality of good public high schools.  Not world cup.  Not professional.  Not even close.  And this guy on the other team was fired up, pulling at my jersey, talking nasty to me, and I’m thinking to myself, “You have got to be kidding me.”  Now I will admit that it was not a proper eulogy or blessing, and my attitude definitely had a dose of snarkiness, but at one point I looked at him and said, “Jesus loves you, man.” It was a Christian soccer player attempt at repaying an insult with a blessing.  The funny thing is that it seemed to hit home. 

After the game, he actually came up to me, shook hands and thanked me, saying that it totally convicted him!  I was shocked.  Glad, but shocked.  Embarrassed because my motivations weren’t totally pure, but still amazed that God used that.  When we played that team the next year, that guy came right up to me with a big smile, remembering the previous years’ interaction and he was like a totally different guy.  It was wild.

When they insult you, eulogize ‘em.

[1] Louw, Johannes P., and Eugene Albert Nida. Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains 1996 : 441. Print.

The Top 5 adjectives that should describe a church family (do you know them?)

1 Aug

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Get out a pen and paper, or open up a note-taking app.  What are the first five adjectives that come to mind if you were trying to answer the question: “What are the five top adjectives that should describe a church family?”

This week we are studying 1 Peter 3:8-12 where Peter teaches how a church family should interact with one another.  Yesterday we saw the first of five adjectives that Peter says should define a church: harmonious.  A church should be unified.  Today we going to look at the remaining four adjectives, and I think you’ll see that they all very much relate to or support the idea of being harmonious.

The second adjective is Sympathetic.  Sympathy is when you have common feelings or emotions with someone.  Hear the unity in that?

Third is Brotherly Love.  This is the Greek word philadelphia again, just like we saw in 1:22, “love for your brothers.” Same word.  This is vital for unity.  Love is the basis for unity.

Next is Compassionate.  The passion part of this word is not about erotic passion.  The word Peter is using is about painful passion.  We English speakers almost never use the word passion like that, except in one week of the year.  You know which week?  Holy Week.  It is also called Passion Week, and churches do Passion Plays, and what passion are they talking about?  Jesus’ passion, his suffering!  Jesus’ arrest, beating, crucifixion and death are his passion, his pain, his suffering.  And that is what the word compassion is getting at.  It means to “suffer with someone.”  We normally think of compassion as when we see someone hurting and we go, “Awwww…it will be okay,” or some platitude like that.  But true compassion is to enter into the pain with that person.  That is a whole deeper level of kindness and relationship that we can see totally spurs on unity!

Finally, Be Humble.  That one is huge.  Humility, teachability is critical for unity in the church family.  I cannot emphasize this enough.  In a church family, we must simply be humble.  Pride and arrogance will destroy our relationships.  When I did my missionary internship between my junior and senior years in college, I spent three months in Guyana, South America.  There were probably 15-20 different missionaries working together in the same general area.  My host family were really awesome, and they taught me so much about ministry.  One thing they taught me was humility.  One night the wife was telling me about how they had been having significant relationship problems with one of the missionaries.  This other missionary was being extremely difficult about a policy and making false accusations against my host family.  They prayed hard about how to respond, because they knew they had not done what they were accused of.  You know what my missionary host family told me they decided to do?  “It is better to take one for the team and preserve unity, than it is to be right.”  Wow.  That’s humility.

Those are the five adjectives Peter says should describe a church family: harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly love, compassion and humility.  So how many did you get?  And more importantly, are there any that you need to work on?  Who can you talk with in your church family about improving on that characteristic?

But Peter is not done.  He finally gets to some verbs. We’ll start looking at them tomorrow!

How a church family can disagree but still be harmonious

31 Jul

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Is your church family harmonious?  How much should a church family agree with one another?  Is it okay if there is disagreement in a church family?

Yesterday we began looking at 1 Peter 3:8-12, and I said that Peter is talking to all Christians about how they should interact with one another in their church families.  He starts off with five adjectives that should describe us.  Today we look at the first one, and tomorrow we’ll see how the remaining four support the first.

Adjective #1.  Christians should be harmonious

The word Peter uses for “harmonious” means, “Pertaining to being of the same mind or having the same thoughts as someone else.”  So Peter could be translated here as saying, “all should be like-minded”. The dictionary I use says that the word Peter uses is a word picture of “having thoughts that follow the same path.[1]

Harmony is a musical word.  To make harmony, not everyone is singing the exact same tune.  In fact they are singing different tunes that work together.  But we know right away when harmony is poor, right?

Peter is not saying that everyone in a church family must think about everything exactly the same. That would be uniformity. Peter is not suggesting that we need to strive for uniformity in the church.  Peter is talking about unity, where we have the same goals, same mission, same heart, but we can still disagree about a great many things, in love.

What are some areas where we can disagree?  Politics and matters of ethics are areas where I think it is obvious that people in my Faith Church family disagree.  We have Republicans and we have Democrats.  We have those who are conservative and those who are moderate and those who are liberal.  We have people think that certain behaviors are okay, and people who think those same behaviors are wrong.  Those differences are completely normal, and even to be expected.

Though we have differences of opinions about many things, we are to be harmonious.

There are a few things that are non-negotiable, and the rest we can disagree in love. Have you heard the phrase:  “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; and in all things, charity.”  I find it to be very helpful in providing a framework for how Christians in a church family can be harmonious.  Let’s look at all three levels.

In Essentials, Unity

What are the essentials in which we are to practice unity?

Historically, the Apostles’ Creed.  This is what Christians everywhere, from the very early days of the church, said out loud together to give voice to what is true Christian teaching:

I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord, Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, Born of the Virgin Mary, Suffered under Pontius Pilate, Was crucified, dead, and buried. He descended into hell; The third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, And sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost; The Holy catholic Church, the Communion of Saints; The Forgiveness of sins; The Resurrection of the body, And the Life everlasting. Amen.

I think it is best to keep as small as possible the theological statements that we feel are absolutely essential to be followers of Jesus.  The Creed is perhaps the best foundation.

In Non-Essentials, Liberty

What are some examples of the middle level, the non-essentials?  One could be differences in churches’ modes of baptism.  Or differences in how we practice communion.  These and many other doctrines express differences that distinguish between denominations.

I think the EC Church does a great job of asking its members to commit to a few distinctives rather than a big group.  The EC Church has 25 Articles of Faith and a really long statement on Christian Practice.  But to be a member of an EC Church, you don’t have to agree with that.  I find that very healthy.  What do you need to agree to, to become a member of an EC Church? This is what we ask:

The Discipline of the Evangelical Congregational Church outlines the qualifications for membership: (1) Believe in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord; (2) Believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God; (3) Be committed to daily Christian growth; (4) Be committed to giving Jesus Christ your time, talent, and treasure; (5) Be supportive of our local church and the ministry of the Evangelical Congregational Church denomination; (6) Be faithful in attendance and participation; and (7) Be baptized as a Christian.

In All Things, Charity

Finally there is the third level, what we would call “in all things, charity” and this is where much disagreement takes place.  Should Christians gamble, drink, smoke, swear, watch R-rated movies, wear bikinis, and on and on? When I preached this, I illustrated this part of the sermon with a picture of a gambling table at a casino. I said, “As soon as you see that picture, some of you are thinking, ‘I can’t believe you put that picture there!  Gambling is a sin!  Are you trying to encourage gambling, Joel?’  And others of you are thinking, ‘There is nothing wrong with having a little fun at a casino on vacation.  Geez, the stock market is a worse gamble.’

There is so much we could talk about here.  Peter says, be harmonious.  Charity means “love.”  In all things, charity, means that we absolutely need to love those, especially those in the church family, with whom we disagree.  Check out this post (about bikinis!) for further thoughts on how Christians can disagree about ethical issues.

 

[1] Louw, Johannes P., and Eugene Albert Nida. Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains 1996 : 351. Print.

Why I am not a fan of eulogies (but why they are surprising important for church families)

30 Jul

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I am not a fan of eulogies.  I’ve told you before that one of the aspects of being a pastor that I was definitely not prepared for was death.  It affects me.  Some pastors tell me they love funerals, and can’t stand weddings.  I’m the exact opposite. I love weddings.  Funerals, though?  No.  I’m just not a fan.  Of course I officiate funerals, and I hope I do well.  I believe they are a very important event for the family and friends of the deceased.  Grieving is important.  Thinking about matters of life after death is important. And almost always a funeral includes a eulogy.  You know that speech that tells the history of the person who died, praising that person?

I have given numerous eulogies over the years, and many times I don’t like them.  It’s not just the fact that we are talking about dead person, which can be depressing.  It is that so often in eulogies we straight up tell lies.  Most often the family wants you to tell a totally positive story about the deceased, even if everyone knows the deceased had numerous, even glaring faults.

This week as we continue our study through1st Peter, I was shocked to learn something brand new about eulogies.  We’ll be looking at 1 Peter 3:8-12 all week.  Read it for yourself.

One phrase I want you to listen for is: if people insult you, eulogize them!  What could Peter mean by that?  Oh, you don’t see that phrase in there?  I promise, it’s there!  I’ll show you this week!  What’s even more important than finding that phrase is what it means and how we can apply it to our relationships in the church family.

Peter says in Verse 8 “Finally” and by that he means “here is the end of the matter”, or “let me sum up what I am talking about.”  For a few weeks now Peter has been talking about many different relationships that Christians experienced in his day.  If you want, you can review the posts and you’ll see that Peter talked about the following:

  • How Christians should relate to governing authorities.
  • How Christian slaves should relate to their masters…even mean ones.
  • How husbands and wives should relate to one another.

Peter taught a common principle that Christians should apply to all these relationships: submission.  That’s not a very popular idea in our era, but as we saw, Peter was teaching Christians to submit first and foremost to God and the mission of his Kingdom.  If you want to learn the specifics of what Peter said about each of those other relationships, feel free to scan back through previous posts.

What we see today in verse 8 is that he is now bringing his thoughts to a close.  This week Peter is going to talk about how people in a church family should treat one another.  As I said above, he is going to say, “If someone insults you, eulogize ’em.”  Next week, Peter changes the focus to how Christians should relate to people outside their church family.

So his “finally”, his concluding remarks will cover the next few weeks.  As he goes on in verse 8, notice that he says, “all of you” and begins listing adjectives.  He is saying “Church…Christians…every single one of you, let me describe what you should be.  Then he lists five adjectives that should define Christian relationships in a church family.  What adjectives do you think should define a church family?  Tomorrow we’ll look at the first one.  And I promise…the surprising thing I learned about eulogy is coming later this week!