Let's open our Bibles together for our continuing study in the great epistle of 1 Peter. We're looking at chapter 3, considering verses 8 through 12, 1 Peter chapter 3. Let me read our text for you. In verse 8 Peter writes, "To sum up, let all be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kind-hearted, and humble in spirit, not returning evil for evil, or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead. For you are called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. For let him who means to love life and see good days refrain his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking guile. And let him turn away from evil and do good. Let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous and His ears attend to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil."
Now the key to this particular text is found in that little phrase in verse 10, "Let him who means to love life and see good days," do this, is implied. Here is how to love life an see good days, and so we've entitled this subject, "Living and Loving the Good Life." And this is part 2 in our look at this wonderful text. It tells us what one must do to live and love the good life. Obviously the society around us has formed its own opinion of what the good life is, wealth, health, possessions, parties, sex, prestige, travel, all kinds of experiences, etc., etc. That's the good life. But is that really the path to the good life? How do we love life? How do we really see good days?
People always say to me and they probably say it to you, "Have a good day." What's a good day made up of? What makes our days good? And how can we love life?
We noted last time the testimony of Solomon who had so much wealth that the Queen of Sheba saw it and it says that she was breathless. She looked over his houses and his lands and his gold and his women and his power and his prestige and she was overwhelmed by it all. It took her breath away.
But Solomon himself looked over all of it and you know what he said according to Ecclesiastes 2:17? He said this, "I hated life because everything is futility and striving after wind." He hated life and he had everything that should have constituted the good life by popular standards.
Let's go back to the book of Ecclesiastes for a moment and examine a little more closely how a man who apparently had everything that constitutes the good life could have hated life.
Ecclesiastes chapter 1 will lead us to understand a bit more deeply what was in the heart of the preacher, Solomon. In verse 12 he says, "I, the preacher, have been king over Israel in Jerusalem and I set my mind to seek and explore by wisdom concerning all that has been done under heaven. It is a grievous task which God has given to the sons of men to be afflicted with."
In other words, he says, I tried to evaluate life, I wanted to look at everything under heaven and try to discern it, try to pursue the good life. First of all, in verse 14, he said, "I have seen all the works which have been done under the sun and behold, all is vanity and striving after wind." The first thing he says is the good life is not found in great accomplishments. I looked at all of the great things that have been done, all of the works, and it was nothing. It provided nothing, vanity, striving after wind.
Notice down in verse 16, "I said to myself, ‘Behold I have magnified and increased wisdom more than all who were over Jerusalem before me and my mind has observed a wealth of wisdom and knowledge and I set my mind to know wisdom and to know madness and folly.’ I realize that this also is striving after wind because in much wisdom there is much grief, and increasing knowledge results in increasing pain." He says I thought the good life might be in great accomplishments, it wasn't there. I thought the good life might be in education and it wasn't there. I became wiser than anyone else. I found no satisfaction there.
Then in chapter 2 he tried something else. He said, "I said to myself, ‘Come now I will test you with pleasure. So enjoy yourself.’ And behold, it too was futility. I said of laughter, it is madness; and of pleasure, what does it accomplish?"
It wasn't there either. That wasn't the good life. The good life wasn't in great accomplishments. The good life wasn't in great education. The good life wasn't in pleasure. So in verse 3 he said I came up with another idea. "I explored with my mind how to stimulate my body with wine." I tried alcohol and drugs, if you want to put it in the vernacular. Maybe the good life was in those things, substance.
And he says, "It provided no good. I could see what good there is for the sons of men to do under heaven the few years of their lives." It doesn't arrive. It doesn't happen. It provided nothing.
Then he said, I tried something else, I tried possessions, materialism, verse 4, "I enlarged my works. I built houses for myself. I planted vineyards for myself. I made gardens and parks for myself. I planted in them all kinds of fruit trees. I made ponds of water for myself from which to irrigate a forest of growing trees. I bought male and female slaves. I had home-born slaves. I possessed flocks and herds larger than all who preceded me in Jerusalem. And I collected for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces. I provided for myself male and female singers, and the pleasures of men, many concubines."
I tried possessions. I tried pleasure. I tried sex. I became great. I increased more than all who preceded me in Jerusalem. And my wisdom stood by me through it all. Was it there? Did that do it? Verse 10, "And all that my eyes desired I didn't refuse them. I didn't withhold my heart from any pleasure for my heart was pleased because of all my labor and this was my reward for all my labor. Thus I considered all my activities which my hands had done and the labor which I had exerted, and behold, all was nothing." That's what that word means. "Striving after wind and there was no profit under the sun."
The good life wasn't in any of those things. Here is the richest man that ever lived, the wisest man that ever lived. Nothing, up till that time no one had surpassed him in wisdom or in possessions or in expressions of pleasure. It wasn't there.
Look at chapter 4 verse 2 if you want to hear a sad commentary on his life. Verse 2 of chapter 4: "So I congratulated the dead." Boy, that is morbid. "I congratulated the dead who were already dead, more than the living who are still living. But better off than both of them, the dead and the living, is the one who never existed." Boy, that is depressing.
Here is a man who thought the good life was contained in all of these things and when he went through the whole gamut of it, he said I hated life, I hated it. And I congratulated the dead and even better off than the dead were the people who never lived because they never even had to be a part of this unfulfilling, futile life.
What is the good life? What provides the good life? What is it that can make us fulfilled in life? Let's go to 1 Peter 3 and find out. Very simple reminders are here. But the good life basically is attached not to what you possess but to your attitudes. It's a matter of how you approach life, attitudinally, how you think. Now remember the believers to whom Peter writes were not in the situation of a Solomon, they were deprived. They were probably, for the most part, poor. They were definitely persecuted. They were rejected. They were tempted. They were under trials. They were living in danger. They were in a hostile environment that did not tolerate them. Life was extremely difficult. They had none of the things that Solomon pursued. And yet he tells them that if you mean to love life and see good days, here's how. Boy, we ought to run to find this answer. How important this is!
First of all, he says, that in order to live and love the good life you have to have the right attitude, look at verse 8. It starts with the right attitude. You're all to be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kind-hearted and humble in spirit. And what Peter is saying here, as you will remember, is that every Christian is going to find life rich and every Christian is going to find life rewarding and every Christian will live and love life if he follows those things that are mentioned in verse 8. If he is conciliatory, if he is peacemaking, if he is sympathetic, sensitive to the pain of people and their joy, if he is sacrificial in serving others with love, if he is tender, compassionate, kind, merciful and does it all with humility, that's a summary of verse 8. If you have that kind of attitude, you'll live and love the good life. It isn't what you possess, it's the attitude you bring to life.
Now, let's go to a second point for tonight. There is more than just the right attitude. There is also, according to Peter, the necessary...the necessity of the right response, the necessity of the right response. Notice verse 9: "Not returning evil for evil, or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead. For you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing." This is a rich and wonderful verse.
Now Peter says no matter how you're treated, don't retaliate. If you want to live and love life, first of all have the right attitude and that is the attitude of verse 8, harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kind hearted, and humble in spirit. And also learn to respond in the right way, no matter what comes your way. It may be that you're persecuted, rejected, distressed, going through various trials, temptations, testings. It may be that you are unfairly abused. It may be that you're unjustly treated as were the Christians to whom he wrote. But the right response is no retaliation. That sums up verse 9, no retaliation, no retaliation; abstinence from revenge, vengeance, retaliation. Simply said, not returning evil for evil. That is a term, really here it is a present participle but it's used as an imperative in a command mode and it could even be translated "stop returning evil for evil,” don't do that, and if you're doing it, stop doing it.
The word evil here, kakos, means a bad quality or a bad disposition. It's not just a bad act; it's the badness, the inherent badness. And when you are treated with ingrained badness by someone, when you are treated by someone who has a bad or evil or wicked disposition, when someone does evil to you, or has a bad, evil disposition toward you, don't retaliate, do not retaliate. Is that a basic spiritual principle? Sure it is. It goes all the way back to Matthew chapter 5 and this is just by way of reminder. Verse 38, "You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist him who is evil, but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, (Do what?) turn the other cheek. If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat, too. Whoever shall force you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks of you and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you. You've heard it said that you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who (what?) persecute you in order that you may be the sons of your Father." In other words, you'll look like God. Somebody will say, "He must belong to God, God's like that. He acts a lot like God."
In Romans, the apostle Paul builds on the teaching of Jesus in chapter 12 in verse 14 where Paul says, "Bless those who persecute you. Bless and curse not." That's basic. Verse 17, he says, "Never pay back evil for evil to anyone ever." Don't ever retaliate; just a very simple, direct, basic, biblical principle that will cause you to be able to love life and see good days.
First Thessalonians 5:15, another reminder. "See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all men." Don't ever retaliate, don't ever be vengeful. And he's talking here about evil acts, evil intent.
He takes it a step further with the second statement. "You're not to return evil for evil or insult for insult." Now he moves to the verbal realm. You are not only not to do evil retaliatory acts, but you are not to retaliate with your tongue. Boy, that's tough. When somebody lashes out at you, you want to lash back. When your wife says something to you, and you think of something very cutting and very clever, you want to say it and you retaliate.
The term insult here means a railing or reviling or a speaking evil. That, too, is an intolerant thing for one who would love life. You see, if you're going to love life, it starts by having a good attitude, an attitude of peace, sympathy, compassion, love, humility. You see, that's a person who is going to be happy, very difficult to upset that kind of person. And then when they're persecuted and treated unkindly and unjustly and with hostility, they have no vengeance and no hostility and they do not retaliate verbally and they do not retaliate in deed, and consequently their hearts are at peace. They are quiet. No root of bitterness grows up. No anger, no fuming, thumos is the word for that raging anger that wells up within.
If you really want to love life and see good and happy and fulfilling and meaningful days, then deal with the right attitude and the right response in the matters of life. Jesus also taught a lot about this. I don't want to beg the issue, but Paul learned this, of course, from his Lord, as well as the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. In chapter 9 of John's gospel and verse 28 it says, "They reviled Jesus” speaking of those who were His critics “and they said, `You are His disciples but we are disciples of Moses.'" And this was typical human retaliation when they were confronted by one who unmasked them. Jesus never did that. There were times when He spoke truth of judgment but He never reacted in anger, He never retaliated in anger. Scripture makes it abundantly clear that that's something we are not to do.
Hurrying because our time is limited. First Corinthians 4:12, it says, "When we are reviled we bless and when we are persecuted we endure." Now you want to be a happy person, when you're reviled, mistreated, falsely accused, bless the person who does it. Bless you, just want you to know I appreciate you so much, thank you for being so concerned. You know, it's amazing when people write me hostile letters, if I write back to them, "Thank you for your concern, a concern that manifests itself in that way, please pray for me, I appreciate so much,” and so forth and so... It's amazing how that has an effect on people because it convicts them about their own attitudes. But even if that weren't the case, it's still right not to retaliate.
In 1 Corinthians 5 verse 11, "Actually I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he should be an immoral person or covetous or an idolater, or a reviler." You don't even want to associate with someone who insults people. You don't want to even associate with that person. They're in a very bad category, coveters, idolaters, drunkards and swindlers.
Christians who have mean mouths, Christians who have vengeful tongues, stay away from them. You don't want to associate.
Chapter 6 verse 10, "The kingdom of God is not occupied by thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers." Same idea, people whose mouths are full of vengeance, who verbally cast evil at those who somehow get to them or wound them.
Now you say, "Well who's going to bring the equity?" Well the answer is very clear. Who is? "Vengeance is Mine, says the Lord, I will repay."
What is the ideal response for a persecuted believer being treated in a hostile way? It is to love your enemies. That's exactly what he says. Look at 1 Peter 3, "Not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead." I love that. Bless you, oh bless you, may God bless you. I mean, that's very difficult to do and it's very difficult to receive when you have just given evil to someone, but that's the right response. Give them a blessing instead.
Now let's ask the question at this particular point. What does that mean? What does it mean to give a blessing? I mean, I'm not a priest, I can't say, "Bless you, my son," like some do. I mean, I can't pronounce things on people. So when he says, "Give a blessing instead, what does he mean here?" Well the term here is the term from which we get eulogy. Give a eulogy. What could possibly be involved in this? Let me make some suggestions to you. Give you a handful of things that he has in mind.
Number one would be to love someone unconditionally. To bless someone would be to love them unconditionally. How do you know that? Well, back in Matthew chapter 5, you remember back there, we just read it, Jesus said you shall love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Love your enemies. And that really fulfills the injunction of not returning evil for evil, not an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. And if someone gives you evil, don't give him evil back. Love him. That's the first way you bless someone, unconditional love. Now, you say, "Well is that an emotion?" No, not really, it's more of an act of service. You seek a means to serve them. You want to turn an enemy into a friend, find a way to serve them.
Second thing that I would suggest would be to pray for their salvation because that's what it says in Matthew 5:44. Not only love them but pray for those who persecute you. If someone treats you with great hostility and with ugliness, someone persecutes you, you may bless them, first of all, by loving them in spite of that and seeking a way to serve them as the expression of love, and secondly, by praying for their salvation. Do you do that? That's very basic.
The third thing, and this is a most interesting thing, you bless them by — hang on to your hat on this one — by being thankful for them, by being thankful for them. In other words, the term "bless" frequently in Scripture means to thank. When we bless God, we thank Him. When Jesus took bread and blessed it, He was thanking God for it. We say at the table that we're going to bow our heads and say the...the blessing. So there is inherent in this concept of blessing the idea of thanks.
So when someone persecutes you or insults you or treats you in an unjust and an unfair manner, what you want to do, first of all, is love them unconditionally as expressed in some humble act of service. Secondly, pray for their salvation, or if they're saved pray for their spiritual progress. Thirdly, express your thankfulness for them.
Let me give you a fourth way. You can bless a person by speaking well of them, by speaking well of them. Do you remember when, well in Luke 1:42, the wonderful account of Mary and Elizabeth, "It came about that when Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she cried out with a loud voice and said to Mary, `Blessed among women are you and blessed is the fruit of your womb.'" And here the idea of blessing is to speak well of.
You know, when someone is evil to you or unkind to you or insulting to you, speak well of them. Find some way to speak highly of them, return praise for their pain.
And then perhaps a fifth element of blessing someone; not only to love them unconditionally and demonstrate it in some way of service, pray for their salvation or spiritual progress, be thankful for them and speak well of them, but, fifthly, seek and desire their well-being, seek and desire their well-being. And again in Luke an illustration of that particular aspect of blessing, Luke 6:28, "Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you." It's the same basic idea as we saw in this idea of praying for their salvation, only it's extended a little beyond that. Matthew 25:34 is an interesting verse, "The King will say to those on His right, `Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom.'" Blessing is well-being.
So if you want to bless someone when they insult you, love them unconditionally and seek to demonstrate it by some act of service. Pray for their salvation or spiritual growth. Be thankful for them. Speak well of them. And seek and desire their well-being.
Now you know what that all sums up to? One word, it starts with "F," what is it? Forgive them. That's the all-encompassing term because that's what allows you to respond in that way. It amounts to forgiveness, unselfish, forgiving, gracious, merciful love to someone who harms us.
I always think of my brother-in-law, Duane Rey, many of you know him. He had a son. Of course, all of us who knew loved in a special way Tim. And I think of...of Tim as a vibrant, enthusiastic, dynamic Christian young man. He was a star volleyball player at Northridge, very involved in Grace Church. Not a few years ago, just a few years ago, he was working in a market, a man on drugs came into the market over in Sun Valley and pulled a gun and murdered him when he tried to protect another checker from this guy who was robbing the place. And I remember the night that I received a phone call and said, "Tim's been shot and he's dead." I'll never forget it. And to watch the scenario unfold and the unbelievable loss of this young man's life, a young man who was idolized by many, including my own children, who was in many ways a role model for other young men. And I watched Duane dealing with this and had a number of conversations with him. And always his concern was, "Somehow I have got to get into the jail to reach this man who killed my son in order to present to him the gospel." That was always Duane's concern.
And as I remember, Patricia, he had the opportunity to do that. That is a forgiving heart. Unimaginably for those of us who are parents, but that is the forgiving heart toward one who has murdered your son. That's the right response.
While we're in 1 Peter, we might do well to go back to chapter 2, verse 21 for a moment and see the model of Christ where it says, "Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering He uttered no threats but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously." That's the way to do it. You just commit yourself to God. You utter no threats back.
Now listen carefully. If Jesus could do that, who was perfect and, as it says in verse 22, never committed any sin, how much more should we be able to do that who are unworthy sinners? So there is a proper response. If you want to live life to its fullest and love it, learn to have the right attitude, learn to cultivate the right response. No other response is tolerable.
And that is very clear from the end of verse 9, "For you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing." This is a marvelous statement. Let me tell you what it means. You were called, that's your election to salvation. You were elect unto salvation, for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. Now listen to this thought. This is a free gift. You were elect to receive a free gift. The implication is it was a gift that you didn't what? Deserve, a gift that you couldn't earn, a gift without merit. You were elect by God for blessing. And the point really is that we who have been freely given blessing from God without merit, instead of vengeance from the God we have offended, should know well how to give a free gift of forgiveness to someone else. That's the point. It's a great truth.
We should be very anxious to give to someone else the undeserved, unearned, unmerited, free gift of forgiveness because we have received it from God. We offended God; did He give us vengeance? No. They offended us; do we give them vengeance? No. Marvelous truth.
May I illustrate it to you? Matthew 18, we'll look at this and draw our message to a close. Matthew 18:21, Peter came to Jesus and he said, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him?" First of all, the pagan wouldn't forgive him at all, he would retaliate. The Jews had a rule, they said you forgive him three times and after that you get him. Well Peter thought he wanted the Lord to be impressed with how much he had learned, so Peter says, "Lord, how many times does he sin against me and I forgive him, up to seven times?" See, Peter was going to double the Jewish standard and add one. He expected the Lord to pat him on the back and say, "Oh no, Peter, I mean, you don't have to go that high."
But Jesus said to him, "No, not seven times but up to (what?) seventy times seven." And he also said, "Seven times a day," as recorded in another gospel. In other words, you just keep forgiving them, and forgiving them, and forgiving them, and forgiving them endlessly.
Well now wait a minute. That's a little much. Well, let me tell you a parable, verse 23. "For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a certain king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. And when he had begun to settle them there was brought to him one who owed him ten thousand talents." That is an unbelievable sum. "But since he didn't have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold along with his wife and children and all that he had and repayment to be made."
Here's the thing, the king calls the servant in, he says I want what you owe me. He says I don't have anything to pay. So he commands that his family be sold into slavery so that he can at least get some money. The slave therefore falls down, prostrates himself before him and says, `Have patience with me and I'll repay you everything.' “And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt." Nice guy, compassionate, forgave him ten thousand talents. That would be like the national debt of Galilee, mammoth amount. He forgave him the debt just because he asked, he was compassionate.
Then verse 28 says, "The slave went out, found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii," that's a hundred days work, pittance compared to ten thousand talents. He found the guy, seized him, began to choke him, says, `Pay back what you owe.' So his fellow slave fell down and began to entreat him, same speech, “’Have patience with me and I'll repay you.’ He was unwilling, however, went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed. So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened. Then summoning him his lord said to him, `You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you entreated me. Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave even as I had mercy on you?' And his lord moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. So shall My heavenly Father also do to you if each of you doesn't forgive his brother from your heart."
Whew, you understand the point? How in the world could you who owed God an unpayable, uncountable debt and received compassionate forgiveness from Him, go choke somebody with vengeance to get what they owe you. It's an unthinkable thing, living in a double standard. So we are to be marked as forgiving people. Why? Because we have been forgiven. We were elect for the very purpose that we might receive a blessing. The word is "inherit" a blessing, and the term "inherit," I won't take time to develop it, but the term "inherit" means to receive something you couldn't earn. And we have been given freely a blessing who didn't deserve it. Should we not bless others who don't deserve it?
Long ago some anonymous saint wrote, "Revenge indeed seems often sweet to men, but oh, it is only sugared poison, only sweetened gall. Forgiving enduring love alone is sweet and blissful and enjoys peace and the consciousness of God's favor. By forgiving it gives away and annihilates the injury. It treats the injurer as if he had not injured and therefore feels no more the smart and sting that he had inflicted." Isn't that a marvelous statement? Let me read it again. "By forgiving it gives away and annihilates the injury, it treats the injurer as if he had not injured and therefore feels no more the smart and sting that he had inflicted." If you want to remove the sting and the injury, forgive the injurer, forgive the injurer.
Well, Peter says if you want to live and love the good life, have the right attitude, have the right response. This is rich truth. Next time we're going to look at the right standard which is, of course, the Word of God. Bow with me in prayer, will you?
Father, this has been a good reminder for us, just to refresh our hearts, because it's so easy to fail to have the right attitude and the right response. Remind us again, that we might be faithful and that we might be known as Your children because we act like You. You have forgiven so much. We insulted You. We gave You evil. You gave us grace in return. Help us to do the same to others. We couldn't have earned it but we inherited a blessing of Your grace. May we equally bless those around us who don't begin to treat us as badly as we treated You. Fill our hearts with that right attitude of love and humble spirit, the attitude of peacemaking, harmony and sympathy and compassion. Then help us to know that the good life is not in the things the world says, but it comes through Your Spirit's work in these areas in us and we'll thank You for the promise that if we pursue these things we will love life and see good days, for Jesus' sake. Amen.