8 ¶ Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: 9 Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing. 10 For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: 11 Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it. 12 For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil. 13 And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good? 14 But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; 15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:
16 ¶ Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ. 17 For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing.
It is a common thread throughout the New Testament for unity among the brethren. This is a hard thing to accomplish as the modern church is so different than the church of the first century. They met in people’s homes in small groups and lacked many of the organizational challenges facing a church that meets in a separate building that can number, in some instances, in the thousands; with monthly bills, bond issues, mortgages, and liability insurance. There is an additional problem with how quickly people are brought into a church, people who may have just uttered an A-B-C prayer they neither completely understood nor truly believed. There is little supervision of the new believer to see if a changed life is the result of a true conversion. This result can be a church organization that has people of varying levels of commitment or no faith at all running things. It is a very difficult situation today.
But, Peter tells them to be of one mind in that they love and have compassion for each other. He wants them not to return malice with malice but to hold themselves in low esteem and be courteous to each other, to give a blessing when evil is spoken against them so that they may receive a blessing. Obviously, this is not about vying for position or power within the church organization. This is in keeping with Jesus’ commandment.
John 13:34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. 35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
Paul clarified this idea in more detail.
Romans 12:1 ¶ I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. 3 For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. 4 For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: 5 So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. 6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; 7 Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; 8 Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness. 9 Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. 10 Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; 11 Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; 12 Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; 13 Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. 14 Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. 15 Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. 16 Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. 17 Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. 18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. 20 Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. 21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.
1Thessalonians 5:11 ¶ Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do. 12 And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; 13 And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves. 14 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men. 15 See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.
Christians cannot inherit the blessing that Christ has for us on this earth if we find ourselves unable and unwilling to follow His commandments through His Apostles.
Verses 10 and 11 present an interesting lesson in understanding the Bible for us. If you notice the not so archaic word eschew in verse 11 you can see the words let him and evil surround it. If you did not know the definition of eschew you could search in the nearby verses for what those same words surround. In the case of verse 10 they surround the words refrain his tongue from which then gives you the definition of eschew and its application in this context. Be alert to this as you read the Bible and you will find similar instances in other parts of the Bible. It is impossible to understand the Bible without not only reading it in context but comparing verses, cross-referencing.
Peter, in verses 10 and 11 makes another important point. If you want to have a good life keep your mouth from spouting malicious, mean-spirited, and deceitful words. Seek after peace, pursue it. James makes a point not unlike this.
James3:3 Behold, we put bits in the horses’ mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body. 4 Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth. 5 Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. 7 For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: 8 But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. 9 Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. 10 Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. 11 Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? 12 Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.
For a happier life, with less drama, more glorifying to God, control your mouth.
God looks over those who try to do what is right and glorifying to Him in our behavior and speech and hears their prayers. But, He is opposed to those who choose to do maliciously, to do evil. Who is a Christian’s enemy if he is doing right? It can only be Satan himself working through those he has deceived and uses.
When we suffer for righteousness’ sake we are not to be afraid or troubled. We are to set God apart in our hearts, always ready to give an answer to why we believe and have faith in whom we believe and in whom we have faith. We are to do this in meekness doing what is right in accepting God’s will for our lives and in the fear of the Lord, which is awe and reverence.
Psalm 45:4 And in thy majesty ride prosperously because of truth and meekness and righteousness; and thy right hand shall teach thee terrible things.
Zephaniah 2:3 Seek ye the LORD, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the LORD’S anger.
Psalm 33:8 Let all the earth fear the LORD: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him.
Hebrews 12:28 Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:
With a good conscience let others speak badly of you for no reason, when your good deeds are condemned because they are good. And, of course, it is much better for you and much more glorifying to God if you are slandered for doing right than for doing wrong.
Unfortunately, too many Christians in America are arrogant and self-serving because we have been prominent since long before the country’s founding. But God is turning that in a different direction now, so that we will be marginalized and forced to act as God would have us act rather than feeling so smug and self-righteous.