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God’s Word for You

1 Peter 3:8-12 Love as brothers should

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, April 26, 2022

8 Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.

This passage brings us near the end of a carefully written point Peter is making. It is written in an ABC-CBA or chiasm style:

a, Everyone submit to the government (2:12-17)
b, Slaves submit to master (who may not treat you well, 2:18-20)
c, All because Christ suffered for you (2:21-25)
b, Wives submit to husbands (who must treat you well, 3:1-7)
a, Everyone love as brothers (3:8-17)

Peter’s gorgeous phrase, “live in harmony with one another” has applications in every walk of life, but especially in marriage and in the church. Harmony, homophron (ὁμόϕρων), is to be like-minded. Notes played in harmony only beautify one another, they do not war against one another, or else there is cacophony; mere noise. This is a word sometimes used of brothers who are “like-minded” about things even without speaking to one another.

Peter lays out a four-part harmony for us: sympathy, love, compassion, and humility. Sympathy is the ability to feel what others feel; without sympathy, harmonious life is impossible. Even a Christian with a firm and steadfast faith can become cold and robotic, even sinister, without compassion. Friends sympathize with one another, and sometimes even without saying a word (Job 2:11).

“Love as brothers” is philadelphos (ϕιλάδελϕος), to love everyone as if they were your siblings and as if you loved your own siblings as siblings should. For not every family shows love in a godly way (Genesis 37:23-24; Judges 9:5), but God wants us to love one another as Christ loved us all. How did the Lord love his mother, his apostles, the woman caught in adultery, the woman at the well, the Syro-Phoenician woman, the blind, the lame, the mute, the demon-possessed, and so many others? This is how we should love, by being devoted to one another and by honoring one another above ourselves (Romans 12:10).

Next is compassion, a good, kind, and tender feeling that goes out to everyone. Christian compassion shows itself with the way we pray for one another as well as how we act toward each other. God blesses the compassionate even in the darkest times (Psalm 112:4).

The fourth part in our four-part harmony is humility. The whole group is only as strong as their weakest member, and so we give special attention to the very young and the very sick. They need our care in special ways, and the rest of us build each other up in these ways of serving. The Lord crowns the humble with salvation (Psalm 149:4)

9 Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.
10 For, “Whoever would love life
  and see good days
  must keep his tongue from evil
  and his lips from deceitful speech.
11 He must turn from evil and do good;
  he must seek peace and pursue it.
12 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.” (NIV)

Here Peter quotes Psalm 34:12-16 as another explanation of Christian love. When David wrote that Psalm he was preparing to act mad (or had just done so) before the king of Gath (1 Samuel 21:12-14).

The Christian first of all watches his tongue. Keeping one’s tongue from evil might seem the same as keeping from deceitful speech, but evil can be cruel and murderous as well as being merely deceitful. This is what the king of Assyria was condemned for: “For who has not felt your endless cruelty?” (Nahum 3:19). And yet we also have the command to pray for those who are sinners, even murderers, as long as there is hope that they might come to know the gospel, as did murderers such as Moses, David, and Paul. “We should condemn and punish such misdeeds… but we are to have mercy on these persons and pray that God may mercifully enable them to repent of their murder and evil” (Luther, LW 43:164).

Deceitful speech, anything that is not for the benefit of the listener, also comes from the devil who is a liar and the father of lies as well as being a filthy murderer (John 8:44). The devil used part of a truth to tempt Eve (“Did God really say…?” Genesis 3:1) and then tried it again by omitting part of Psalm 91 when he tempted Jesus (Matthew 4:6). In neither case did the devil have anyone’s good in mind; he never does. He is never your friend (Matthew 13:39; 1 Peter 5:8).

The Christian also wants to turn from evil, for evil is not only the tool of the devil, but it is also wielded by the world and by our own sinful human nature. What the world does is evil (John 7:7) and it will be punished for that evil (Isaiah 13:11). Our fallen nature can do nothing but sin because we are slaves to sin (Romans 7:25). Yet the new man within us, born at our baptism, is able to serve God and delights God when we follow his commands and live according to his will.

To seek peace and to have it are two different things, for a peaceful life is finally a gift from God (2 Chronicles 14:6). Yet we can pursue peace and a peaceful life, and we should let this be one of the guiding principles of how we behave in life. Paul wrote: “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life” (1 Thessalonians 4:11), and he also requested prayers “that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (1 Timothy 2:2).

Finally, the quote from the Psalm assures us that God’s eyes and ears are with us, those who believe in him and who trust in him. But at the same time, his face is set against those who don’t. This is the role of the Law and Gospel in our hearts. The Law terrifies us and makes us know that the hard set face of God is against all who sin against him. Anything trouble in the world, grim, stark, bloody or severe, would be better than God’s anger. But through the gospel God reaches down and offers us forgiveness and rescue. God’s love and compassion are always there for those who trust in him. Now, Peter says, live to give that same love and compassion to God’s people.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please visit the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church website.


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