1 Peter 3:10-12, “For
“Whoever desires to love life
and see good days,
let him keep his tongue from evil
and his lips from speaking deceit;
11 let him turn away from evil and do good;
let him seek peace and pursue it.
12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
and his ears are open to their prayer.
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
As Christians, we will have enemies in the world. People will treat us harshly because we have done good, in the name of the Lord Jesus, not because we have done anything to deserve it. We need to remember this. Peter does just that by encouraging his readers and Christians today to stand firm in the midst of suffering. As we talked about in yesterday’s devotional, taking a firm stance for Christ means we do not repay evil with evil but that we bless those who hate us (1 Peter 3:9).
Loving our enemies is commanded in the New Testament (Matthew 5:44). In the Old Testament the call to love those who harm us fits in with the laws of retribution (Exodus 21:23-25) that at seem at first glance to contradict the New Testament’s teaching against retaliation. First, we need to understand that the Old Testament also commands Christians to love their enemies by feeding a hungry foe (Proverbs 25:21-22) and doing good to an enemy’s belongings (Exodus 23:4-5). Next, it’s important also to see that God gives readers the principle of just retribution in the Mosaic law, which is why it cannot contradict His call to bless enemies. Lastly, the Old Testament call to take “an eye for an eye” was given for legal judgment, not as a matter for dealing with ordinary interpersonal relationships taught in the New Testament.
Christians loving their enemies and calling for sin to punished are not mutually exclusive ideas. For example, sometimes blessing our enemies means seeking justice. Legal prosecution can prevent an enemy from sinning further and may even lead to their repentance. The Law calls Christians to take the particular situation into account wherever it is applied (Deut. 22:23-27) but must do so rightly by obeying the command to bless their enemies. This involves going the extra mile and endure suffering, though the application of this particular principle does not also mean we defend ourselves but entrust ourselves to the sovereign care of a just and perfect God (Ex. 22:2; Acts 25:10–11). 1 Peter 3:10-12 reminds us today, that Christians must always behave righteously and thoughtfully as we apply the command to love our enemies because God regards those who do so as righteous.
The command to bless our enemies relates to the rest of Scripture and can quickly lead us to fall into one of two extremes. Either, we can put ourselves into unnecessary dangers by refusing always to defend ourselves, or we can use the principle of retribution as an excuse for never showing mercy to anyone. While we can’t go into the exact situations and details of everyone’s situations and circumstances, we need to begin to see people the way Jesus does and to treat them with dignity, value, and respect. Then we can see them not as opponents to be won but as people in need of the gospel of grace and to minister that grace in biblical and Christ-honoring ways. Please go before the Lord today in prayer and ask Him through the Holy Spirit to guide you in applying His commands to the specific situations that you are dealing with that are difficult. As you do that diligently study the Scriptures so you might know how to love those who despise you and to begin to view and treat them as Jesus would have you too.