Whatever is happening is not just about you and the person that you are struggling with, it is about you and your relationship to the Lord.
It’s interesting to watch how often the writers of Scripture connect our relationship with others to our relationship with God.
For example this is something Peter brings out in verse 13 of chapter 1 Peter 2, where he writes, “Be subject.”
“For the Lord’s sake.”
Then in verse 15, as he continues his exhortation, he writes
“For this is the will of God, that by doing good…”
It is not just about the government.
It is about God’s will.
In verse 19 he explains why a slave would be respectful even to an unjust master like this.
“For this is a gracious thing, when mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly.”
Mindful of God.
And again in chapter 3, verse 5 he explains exactly what motivated the holy women we read about in Scriptures to submit to their husbands when he says, “For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves.”
Their submission to their husbands had to do with their hope in God.
Speaking to husbands later, he warns them to be careful how they treat their wives because if they are not, it is going to have a very negative impact on their relationship with God.
Peter says in verse 7.
“showing honor . . . so that your prayers may not be hindered.”
Which all goes to show us that our relationships with other people are about so much more than our relationships with other people, ultimately the way you and I relate to other people has to do with our own attitude towards God.
He is the ultimate reference point for all your relationships.
Not your comfort.
Not even the other person.
What does he want.
How can I please Him.
I think this is so helpful because other people, they change. If you make them your reference point. Some days they are going to do the right thing, other days they are not and if they are my reference point, the way I respond to them is going to be constantly going up and down.
But with God.
Plus, the fact is when you just focus on the other person, if that is the only person you are looking at, there are going to be times when you just can’t see doing the right thing because they might be actually evil.
If it is only them and you in the relationship, there’s not much hope because they are just not a good person.
Peter’s aware of that possibility.
That is why he talks in verse 18 about servants whose masters are morally bankrupt.
That is what the word unreasonable means there.
Which means if you are only thinking about the other person, then you are going to easily be able to find reasons to give up and to stop doing the right thing but Peter won’t let us just think about the other person, we have to see that our response to that person is connected to our attitude towards God.
It is almost like you have to learn to see Jesus smiling standing behind the person who is screaming in your face.
I remember I had a friend a number of years back who came under attack and he was describing how painful it was, he just wanted to attack back. He actually was invited to a sit down across the table kind of conference with the people who were attacking him and they were just unleashing on him and I asked him how was he able to continue to respond with grace and kindness in the middle of that.
He said that he just imagined tape recording the conversation and sitting down afterwards with Jesus and listening, and so he made it his primary goal to speak in a way that would make Jesus happy.
That’s what I am talking about.
Focusing on Christ even more than the other person. Ultimately we think it is about the other person, that is why we are freaking out, that is why we are getting angry, but it is really about faith.
Mindful of God.
Hoped in God.
And Jesus, verse 23.
“When he was reviled, he did not revile in return, when he suffered he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.”
Whatever happens God has given you a unique opportunity to please Him and He will remember your obedience.
Peter actually brings this out in two of the specific situations he addresses.
First look at what he says to servants in verse 19.
He says, “For this is a gracious thing, when mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly.”
And then he emphasizes that again in verse 20.
“For what credit is it if when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.”
Doing good, suffering for it and enduring is a gracious thing in the sight of God.
The Greek word is literally grace.
The parallel term he uses though if you look at verse 20 is credit.
“For what credit is it…”
If you put verse 19 and 20 back to back, these are parallel terms.
And the word credit means renown or fame or glory.
When you are suffering in a relationship and yet you remember that God’s there, and so you keep on doing the right thing, that is something God remembers. That’s something that finds renown or fame in the sight of God.
The heros they are celebrating in heaven’s newspaper look a little different than the worlds.
Which is why while some people would look at someone suffering and say that is the worst situation the person can be in and yes it is a difficult bad situation, no doubt but it is not only that and you can’t think of it as only that, because Peter here makes it clear it does provide you an opportunity to please God.
That’s an idea Peter comes back to in verse 4 of chapter 3 as he speaks to wives as well.
He says “let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.”
Being gentle which here has to do with being willing to yield and being quiet which here means being steady, tranquil you might say in the face of attacks is something that God Himself finds precious and beautiful.
Which is huge.
When God thinks you are beautiful.
And again it is why if you are in a difficult situation and you are thinking and talking about that situation as if it were only difficult, you are not really seeing the situation correctly. In that situation you have an opportunity you would not otherwise have and you have a responsibility to think a little about the unique opportunity that is in front of you.
I know that sounds like a lot, but if you look at the way Jesus spoke this is the kind of encouragement he often gave.
For example, check out Luke 6:27ff.
“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. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.”
Now by itself, some of the things Jesus says there sound pretty bad.
Being hated, being cursed, being abused.
Being hit in the face, having your clothes taken away, someone stealing your stuff.
But Jesus doesn’t just see it as a bad situation. He sees it as an opportunity. Why?
“If you love those who love you what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those who from you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners to get back the same amount. But love your enemies and do good, and lend expecting nothing in return and your reward will be great! And you will be sons of the Most High.”
In other words, everyone is able to respond graciously to people who treat them graciously, even unbelievers but when you are being mistreated and taken advantage of, that’s when you as a believer have a unique opportunity to prove your faith and you have to think of it like that, and when you do act in faith you can be sure that God notices and that He will remember and bless you for it.
Peter he says that very thing straight up.
If you look back at 1 Peter 3:9.
“Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless for to this you were called, that you might obtain a blessing.”