It’s been my experience that when the circumstances of life get difficult it often puts strain on relationships. Show me a couple in the pressure cooker of financial need and it won’t surprise me if, from time to time, they blow off steam at one another. Or consider the impact of a chronic illness within a family–tiredness can give way to testiness or fear of the unknown might manifest itself in fights over the unimportant.
This morning I’m continuing to read about a group of believers who lived under the constant pressure of persecution. Peter calls them the “elect exiles of the Dispersion” (1Peter 1:1). They were the elect, called to be holy. But they were also the exiles, on the run for their calling. Life wasn’t easy and, it would seem, wasn’t about to get any easier anytime soon. And so Peter writes to encourage them. Reminding them of who they are in Christ, “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation,” and what they have been called to do for Christ, “that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness and into His marvelous light” (2:9).
But Peter also knew that the constant pressure of persecution and suffering would conspire to test the peace and tranquility of their fellowship. That as the going got tough it would be tough to not get going on one another. That even though they had all been ransomed with the precious blood of Christ (1:19) and had been born again through the imperishable seed of the living and abiding word of God (1:23), there would still be the temptation to yield to the old ways of dealing with all these new troubles.
After addressing servants, wives, and husbands as to how to deal with the stress of their daily circumstance, Peter turns to the whole fellowship of believers. Knowing that just as hard times impact people’s homes, Peter was also aware that hard times can also conspire to fracture God’s household. And so he exhorts God’s people to bless.
Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.
(1Peter 3:8-9 ESV)
Let’s face it. Even if we don’t live under the same pressure cooker of persecution that these early believers endured, if we are serious about doing family with other Christians, at some point we’re going to know some friction with at least a few of them. If we believe that we’ve been called to go deeper than, “Hi, how are you?” on a Sunday morning with other believers, if we are willing to not just call them our brothers and sisters but actually live with them as brothers and sisters, then we probably should be prepared for a family spat from time to time. We shouldn’t be surprised when, for whatever reason, things get a bit tense between Christians. It’s then we should remember Peter’s encouragement to bless.
Peter addresses all of them. No one is exempt from the propensity under pressure to turn on those they share Christ with.
And it starts with a unity of mind. Not that they would see eye-to-eye on everything. That would be uniformity, not unity. But that, through the Spirit’s ever-present enabling, they would be committed to a common attitude concerning one another. An attitude marked by compassion, a willingness to suffer alongside with each other. A mindset that recalls these are not just other people but that they are blood relatives, as in brothers and sisters bought by the blood of Christ, and thus are to be treated with a familial type of love, just as Christ loved us.
Also wanting to have a tender heart towards each other, a heart sensitive to the needs and feelings of one another. A heart that refuses to, despite the pressure to do otherwise, shutdown or go cold concerning a fellow sojourner. And finally, a humble mind. A mind that puts others first. A mind resolved to be kind, courteous, and considerate of others, even when it wants only to watch out for itself.
And when this attitude of mind prevails, then follows the resolve to act. Rather than repaying evil for the evil perceived against me, or determining to win a war of words with a brother or sister who has offended me, I will, on the contrary, purpose to bless.
Bless. To speak well of. To seek the welfare of.
When the going gets tough. When the pressure cooker is about to blow. When paranoia is just smart thinking ’cause everyone IS against you–even in the family of God . . . by God’s grace, we determine to bless!
For to this we were called. As recipients of blessing, we are to be the distributors of blessing. As benefactors of grace, we are to extend grace. As children of God, we have been called to love the family of God.
Even when life puts a strain on relationships, bless.
Perhaps not a natural reaction, but hey, we are supernatural new creations. The mind of Christ and the love of Christ so implanted in us that, if we have been so blessed, we ought, in turn, bless one another.
Because of God’s grace. For God’s glory.