Called to Bless

According to Peter, being treated poorly for the sake of Jesus is not the full picture that proves who we really are. It’s how we respond to that treatment that proves who we really are.

Chris Hutchison on February 11, 2024
Called to Bless
February 11, 2024

Called to Bless

Passage: 1 Peter 3:8-12
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In case we haven’t noticed, Peter really cares how Christians act. He spent the first part of his letter making sure that we really understand all that God has done for us in Christ, and how great the hope is that God’s people have set before them. And then, Peter has spent the main chunk of his letter helping us understand how we are to live and act and behave in response to this hope.

A key issue for Peter’s readers was the hostility they were facing from the surrounding culture for their faith in Jesus. Back up in 2:12, Peter wrote, “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” And beginning in the next verse, Peter began to break down what this “honourable conduct” looks like for various groups of people. He taught us how to relate to unbelieving governments. He taught slaves how to interact with unbelieving masters. He taught wives how to act toward their unbelieving husbands.

Along the way we’ve seen that “honourable conduct” includes the way that Christians treat each other. “Love the brotherhood” said 2:15. And 3:7 gave instructions for how husbands were to treat their wives in a way that assumes their wives were believers. At the same time, a major focus has been Christians are to interact with those who do not believe in Jesus.

Today we arrive at a passage that in many ways wraps up this whole section. After talking to these various groups, Peter begins verse 8 by saying, “Finally, all of you.” Whether you’re in one of these groups or not, if you’re a part of God’s people this is for you. And in this section we see a summary of how we are to live with each other, and then further instruction on how to live among those who are treating us poorly for our faith in Christ.

A. Living With One Another (v. 8)

Let’s start with that first part, in verse 8. As a chosen race, a holy nation, what does “honourable conduct” look like with one another? And Peter lists five characteristics.

1. The first is “unity of mind.” Or, being “like-minded.” This is the only time this specific phrase is used in the New Testament, although the idea is found many other places.

“I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment” (1 Corinthians 1:10). “Complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind” (Philippians 2:2).

We often see like-mindedness when people share a common heritage or ancestry or traditions. Cultures and clubs form around shared interests and opinions. The like-mindedness we are to have as God’s people comes from our minds being renewed by the Holy Spirit as we share the mind of Christ together.

I’m encouraged as I think about the people in this room, and how different we are, and how differently we think about so many different issues, but the unity we experience as we seek to put Jesus first and seek His kingdom above all. And that’s what Peter calls us to. Christ-focused unity of mind.

2. The second characteristic here is sympathy. Thomas Schreiner defines this idea as “caring deeply about the needs, joys, and sorrows of others.”1Thomas R. Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude, vol. 37, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003), 163.

Once again, while this particular word is only used here by Peter, the concept is found elsewhere in Scripture. “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). “If one member suffers, all suffer together” (1 Corinthians 12:26).

This is the total opposite to the individualism that pervades our culture today. “If someone else is suffering, that’s not my problem” is the attitude we so often hold to. But sympathy means that if someone else is suffering, that person matters to us. We care, and not just care in terms of feeling care. We are going to try to show actual care. We’re going to want to help them. Because we are members of a body together.

3. The third term is “brotherly love.” We’ve seen “brotherly love” once already in 1 Peter, up in 1:22: “Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart.” The idea is that we are to love each other as if we are members of a family… because we are!

It is unavoidable that we will always be more familiar with the members our immediate family, those we live or lived in a house with. And we may have more immediate obligations to them, such as the priority that men have to provide for their households. But in terms of love, we are called to love one another as if we are a part of a family, because we’ve been born again into God’s household and so we actually are.

4. The fourth phrase here is “a tender heart.” Another way we could translate this is “compassion.” Interestingly, this word was also associated with family relationships in the ancient world. And it has to do with feelings. The genuine feelings that family members have for one another.

And by commanding us to feel, Peter is telling us not to be hypocritical with each other. We aren’t just supposed to “show care” as if “showing” was the important part. We’re actually supposed to feel for one another. Tender actions are to flow from tender hearts.

5. Fifthly and finally, we’re called to be humble-minded. To have humility. This word is connected to being “lowly” or having “humility of mind.” In the ancient world, this was actually not seen as a good thing. Humility was something you were supposed to avoid, because it was seen as a weakness. Pride was a virtue to pursue.

This has certainly become more and more true in our modern world as we’ve gotten further and further away from a culture that’s been shaped by the Bible. It’s way more common today to hear people say “I’m proud of what I’ve done” or “I’m proud of what I have.” To intentionally elevate themselves above others.

God calls us instead to be lowly in our thinking, because that’s what Jesus is like. He is “gentle and lowly in heart” (Matthew 11:28). Though “he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:6–8).

And many times the New Testament calls us to a similar “lowliness” or “humility.” “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” says Philippians 2:3, for one example.

Thinking of “humility” as “lowliness” is a really helpful way of assessing our own hearts. Do we think of ourselves as above other people, or below other people? The world cheers on those who seek to raise themselves above everybody else, cheering on the “rising stars” who stand out from the crowd. Humility means knowing that God alone is lifted high, and we’re content to be low.

So, brothers and sisters, here’s yet another call for how we are to live with one another. Together, these words paint a picture of a genuine, heart-felt, others-focused family love. This is what God calls us to, together. And we’ll return to these matters towards the end of our time together.

B. Living Among Those Who Persecute Us

In verse 9, Peter transitions to describe behaviours that are more often going to apply to how we live with the unbelieving world. And the ideas that Peter unpacks here are not necessarily brand new. In his discussion on masters and slaves, Peter went into depth explaining how slaves should expect to be treated poorly for doing the right thing, and this was something they had been called to as they followed Christ’s example.

What Peter does now in verse 9 is open that up to all of us. It’s not just slaves who should expect to be treated badly for doing what’s right. All of us who follow the Lord should expect this.

We see that in verse 9, which seems to assume that we’ll receive evil treatment and “reviling.” “Reviling” is a word that speaks about insults or harsh language or abusive speech.

1. Don’t repay evil for evil, or abuse for abuse (v. 9a)

And when they happen, we are not to return them to the person who did them. “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling” (1 Peter 3:9a). In other words, don’t do the normal human thing of hurting the person who hurt you, ignoring the person who ignores you, throwing sand back at the person who threw sand at you.

What Peter says here is radical, but not brand-new. Proverbs 20:22 says, “Do not say, ‘I will repay evil’; wait for the Lord, and he will deliver you.’” Jesus taught us in Matthew 5:39, “Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” (cf. Romans 12:17.)

Jesus didn’t just say that—He lived this out perfectly, like we’ve seen already up in 2:23: “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten.” This is incredible, isn’t it? To have people hurling insults at you, treating you terribly, and not respond? This is impossible, humanly. This is supernatural.

2. Instead, bless (v. 9b)

But Jesus didn’t just stop there. He actually prayed for them. Suffocating on the cross for other people’s sins, Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). And so Peter calls us to not follow in Christ’s footsteps even this far. Look half-way through verse 9:  “But on the contrary, bless.” Instead of just staying light-lipped and taking the trash-talk, we’re supposed to respond—with blessing instead of cursing.

What does Peter mean here by blessing? Looking at how this word is used and practiced throughout the Scripture, I agree with what Thomas Schreiner has said: “By ‘blessing’ Peter means that believers are to ask God to show his favor and grace upon those who have conferred injury upon them.”2Thomas R. Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude, vol. 37, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003), 164–165.

Isn’t that amazing? But isn’t that also familiar? “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:27–28).

This is what Jesus did, this is what Jesus taught us, and this is what God’s people have been empowered to do over and over again. “And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’ And when he had said this, he fell asleep” (Acts 7:59–60).

Paul was bragging on God, not himself, when he said in 1 Corinthians 4:12, “When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure.” And if you read Christian biography or Christian history you’ll see story after story where God supernaturally enabled his people to love those who had caused them so much harm. To pray for those who were persecuting them. To bless those who cursed them.

This is what Jesus did and this is what Jesus enables us to do.

a. Because this is what you were called to

One of the ways that God enables us to do this is by giving us motivation to do this through His word. And that’s what happens here in verse 9. God through Peter motivates us to love our enemies and bless those who curse us by telling us, first of all, that this is what we were called to. “Bless, for to this you were called” says verse 9.

God’s call is a way of describing the sovereign work of God in our salvation. Like a king, God summons us, and we answer. 1 Peter 2:9 describes God as him who “called” us “out of darkness into his marvellous light.” If you believe in Jesus, it’s because you were called.

And the call that God gave us was not just a call to come to faith in Jesus. It includes a summons to be holy, because the one who called us is holy, as we saw up in 1:15.

God’s call is also a call to suffer, like we saw a few weeks ago in 2:21. “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.”

And so we see today that blessing those who curse us isn’t just one command among many that we’re given. This is not an extra that’s optional somehow. Blessing those who treat us poorly is a core part of being a Christian because it’s so essential to being like Christ. When God called us to Himself, this was one of the things he was calling us to.

b. In Order That You Might Receive a Blessing

But that’s not all. There is a goal here. God has called us to bless for a purpose—that we would obtain a blessing. There is a blessing God wants us to obtain, and obtaining this blessing depends on us blessing others. That’s what this says. That’s the sense of the grammar here.

The word “obtain” is a little unfortunate. The better way to translate this word is “inherit,” like the NIV does. This is the same basic word as back in 1:4, which talks about “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.”

And that word “inherit” tips us off to the nature of this blessing that Peter is talking about. Peter is not just talking about us being blessed in the sense of having a nice day. Bless others so that you can go home with a good feeling. No, this blessing that we are to inherit is the blessing of eternal life with God, and we’re going to see that even more clearly here in the next verse.

But just wait a second—is Peter really saying that the blessing of our eternal inheritance is connected to, or even dependant on, us blessing others when we are treated poorly?

Yes. That’s what he’s saying. “Bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.”

I wonder if that might make us uncomfortable. It sounds a bit like earning heaven by our own good works. And if it feels that way to you, I invite you to consider where this whole idea started, according to Peter: with God’s calling. This was not our idea. God called us to this by His own purpose and grace. He caused us to be born again to a heavenly inheritance.

We should also remember that our ability to do what is pleasing to God is something Jesus bought and paid for on the cross. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness” (1 Peter 2:24). So the very fact that we can hear this command and obey it, and even want to obey it, is a gift of grace bought by Jesus when He died for us on the cross.

So this not us bringing our good deeds to God hoping he’ll save us. This is God calling us (which is a gift), to inherit a blessing (which is His gift), by living in the way He tells us (which is also a gift), which He enables us to (which is a gift). And those who have been saved by grace will hear this and will respond.

The part we play in all of this is much like the lame man obeying when He is told by Jesus to get up and walk. Yes, he hears, and yes, He obeys, but he’d never in a million years suggest that walking is something he earned by his good works. “I’m walking because, when he told me to stand, I did.” No, you could stand because He did a miracle that made it possible.

At the same time, when He says to get up and walk, we must obey. And when Jesus tells us to bless our enemies, we must obey. We must obey because we were called to this, that we might inherit a blessing.

c. As the Scriptures say (v. 10)

Now what Peter does next should not be a surprise to us by now: he quotes from the Hebrew Scriptures to make his point. He’s done this before, and he’ll do it again before too long. This particular quote comes from Psalm 34, a Psalm that Peter has actually quoted before (1 Peter 2:3; Psalm 34:8).

If we turn there, we can see one reason why this Psalm was on Peter’s mind so much. Look at the title: “Of David, when he changed his behaviour before Abimelech, so that he drove him out, and he went away.”

The background to this is in 1 Samuel 21, if you want to write that down. Abimelech is an alternate name for Achish, the Philistine king of Gath. David had to flee there, away from his home country, because Saul was wanting to kill him. In other words, David was in exile there. David was a sojourner—a stranger in a land not his own.

And there he found himself in danger. Achich or Abimelech knew that he was an enemy of the Philistines and so David found himself in danger, with no safe place to go. But through some ingenuity on his part, God spared him. And so David wrote Psalm 34 to celebrate this. Verse 4: “I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.” Verse 6: “This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles.”

But as the Psalm goes on, David wants those hearing the Psalm to know that God is not a vending machine. God does not give salvation to anybody who puts in the quarter and presses the button. Listen to verses 8-10: “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack! The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing” (Psalm 34:8–10).

Who are those who receive God’s salvation? Those who take refuge in Him, those who fear Him, and those who seek him.

And in verse 11, David invites his listeners to huddle up in order that he might teach them how to do this: how to fear and seek the Lord in order that they might be saved. Here’s what he says from verse 11-16:

“Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. What man is there who desires life and loves many days, that he may see good? Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry. The face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth” (Psalm 34:11-16).

And it goes on from there, in much the same vein. So yes, God saves, but it’s the righteous He saves. If you want to enjoy God’s salvation and blessings, there is a standard He calls us to. Meanwhile, if you do evil, don’t expect salvation and blessing. You can expect judgement.

So the parallels here between David and Peter’s readers, which include us, are immense. Like David, we find ourselves strangers and exiles in a place that’s hostile to our faith. Like David, we’re seeking the Lord for protection and salvation. And from David we need to learn the lesson that it is only the righteous who will experience the Lord’s salvation and blessings.

When David wrote about life and many days (Psalm 34:12), he was most likely thinking about long physical life in the Promised Land. When Peter quotes those words in verse 10—“whoever desires to love life and see good days”—he’s almost certainly speaking about the New Covenant blessings of eternal life in the new creation. But the principle remains the same.


  • “whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil”—even when others speak evil against you.
  • “and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil”—even when people do evil to you.
  • “and do good;”—even to those who do evil to you.
  • “let him seek peace and pursue it”—even with your enemies.
  • “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer.” This is why Peter told husbands to care well for their wives for the sake of their prayers. God listens to the prayer of the righteous.
  • “But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”—even if they call themselves Christians and are embedded in the Christian community and are so outspoken for their faith that they take flak for it.

Now again, here’s a reminder that this is not talking about being righteous in a way that earns a pass into God’s family. This is talking about being righteous because we’ve already been welcomed into God’s family. Those who have been truly saved by grace through faith will prove it with a life of righteous living. And it is those people who prove their salvation through righteousness who can, like David, look forward to God’s deliverance and salvation and blessing.

But those who repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse prove that they are not actually a part of God’s redeemed people and thus should have no expectation of looking forward to God’s salvation.

Here’s a pretty major implication of this: being persecuted for your faith in Jesus, in and of itself, is not a badge of honour. That’s a pretty big assumption lots of people seem to have, especially here in the western world. Persecuted Christians are the real Christians. And if we do anything that brings the authorities down on us, it must mean we’re doing the right thing.

According to Peter, being treated poorly for the sake of Jesus is not the full picture that proves who you really are. It’s how you respond to that treatment that proves who you really are. Those who are treated poorly for the name of Jesus and respond with the same kind of treatment back should not expect God’s salvation. It’s those who, with God’s help and strength, respond with blessing who can look forward to blessing.

As Jesus said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:44–45).

So, that’s Peter’s instructions for “all of us.” We’ve heard how we’re to live with one another—with unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. And we’ve heard how we’re to live among those who persecute us for Jesus’ sake—by blessing them.

We’ve seen that this is a big deal. It proves our faith. It gives us confidence in receiving the blessing of eternal life from the Lord.

And we know that this is a big deal because Peter has more to say. In fact, Peter is going to talk about this issue, with a few minor interruptions, all the way through the rest of chapter 3 and to the end of chapter 4.

In many ways this is the central issue in the book of 1 Peter and he gives it a fair bit of attention. And so we can expect to hear more about this in the next seven or eight weeks or so.

Today, as we wrap up our time in these verses I want to encourage us to make this very personal and very practical. Let’s not just leave these truths in the realm of ideas that sound nice. Let’s seek God’s help to actually do this.

Is there any place where you’ve been resisting being united in mind with your brothers or sisters? Is there anyone for whom you need to ask God to give you sympathy or brotherly love or a tender heart? Are there areas where you’ve had a haughty mind and need to ask the Lord to give you humility?

Are there parts of your life that you think are “off limits” to this kind of stuff? I’ll confess here something that won’t surprise those of you who have spent time with me—by personality, I’m a very competitive person. If I’m playing a game, I really want to win. If there’s a competition, I want to come out on top, and if there’s not a competition, I’ll invent one.

And my wonderful wife has been a godly influence on me over the years, helping me grow in my understanding that caring for other people is more important than beating other people. In other words, sympathy and brotherly love and tender-heartedness and humble-mindedness are more important than winning and being the best.

Are there areas in your life where a desire to win, or a desire to be right, or a desire to call the shots, or a desire to do your own thing, cloud out these commands Peter’s given us? If the Lord helps you think of any areas like that, receive it as a gift. Repent of your sin, look to your Saviour who died in your place to forgive you, and with the Lord’s help seek to obey what we’ve been called to do. And deliberate regular prayer is a really good place to begin.

When it comes to the second part of our passage, can you think of anyone who has treated you poorly because of your faith in Christ? Who has dished “evil” or “reviling” in your direction? How have you responded?

Is there anybody that you need to deliberately pray blessing for? Don’t just sweep this under the carpet of your bad memory. Write their name down and pray regularly for them. Pray that God would bless them with Himself and His gift of salvation. Look for ways to actively show kindness to them.

Or maybe it’s fear of being treated poorly that keeps you quiet about your faith in Jesus. Maybe you don’t want to be  persecuted, so you do your best to blend in.

Would you ask God to fill you with faith in His promises here, and to believe that you were called to bless, that you may obtain a blessing—the blessing of resurrected, eternal life—and that this blessing is so much bigger and so much greater than any temporary feeling of fitting in here on earth?