Our Relationships And Reactions Matter A Great Deal.
1 Peter 3:1 – 4:6.
Peter’s First Epistle reads like a checklist of exemplary counter-cultural behavioural norms, specifically with a Christ-like focus. The fact that he needed to address these issues publicly implied a distinct dissonance in the typical un-Christian relational patterns among believers in the churches in Asia Minor. It is certainly not just the first century churches that required correction, but his advice is applicable to imperfect believers in our present era; as long as we are still on this side of heaven.
Having encouraged the faithful to have Christ as their example in the preceding segment (1 Peter 2:21-25), the Apostle dived in at the deep end by challenging the extant social mores in marital relationships, proffering a redeemed exemplar of partners mutually submitting and honouring each other as fellow heirs of the grace of life (1 Peter 3:1-7; c.f., Eph 5:21, 24). In the faith community, the profound implication is about honouring the Christ in each person irrespective of their level of spiritual maturity, so that their prayers to God may be unhindered. This high view of the indwelling Christ as a result of our transformed identity by God, despite the fraught presence of ‘the old man,’ will inevitably tests our sanctification in and through Christ, in relating to others harmoniously, sympathetically, brotherly, kindheartedly, and humbly in spirit (1 Peter 3:8). It is pertinent to conclude here that Peter most likely was addressing how members in the church ought to relate to one another as he summed up his preceding exposition, but his summary (1 Peter 3:8) can also be interpreted how Christians ought to behave towards everyone.
Next, Peter elaborated practically what his summary meant on one of the most intractable issues of the day that confronted all believers, with respect to being mistreated and persecuted by others (1 Peter 3:8-17; c.f., 1 Peter 2:13-20). Again, he took the high ground of Yahweh as their Provider and Deliverer (Psalm 34), in discouraging them not to return evil for evil and insult for insult, but to give blessing and to be zealously doing good instead. Sanctification is at the heart of our reactions towards evil, so that our conscionable defence is to give an account of our hope in the risen Christ, away from vindictiveness (1 Peter 3:15-17). It stands to reason that a requirement to intentionally prepare for opposition to our faith is desirable, so that when it does surface, our reactions reflect a predilection towards the offending person or party, where the concerns of Christ is always central. Peter further illustrated God’s saving priority when he declared the cosmic nature of God’s graciousness by reconciling to Himself everyone He had chosen to save (1 Peter 3:18-22).
According to Peter, Christian suffering has a sobering effect over sin, as it refocus us toward our priorities in life; not unlike God’s own suffering as a man in His redemptive journey, and in the process sanctifying us from worldly pursuits and licentiousness (1 Peter 4:1-6; c.f., Rom 6). Persecutory suffering in Christ’s name levels the playing field as God is the ultimate Judge, where our good conscience in Christ-like reactions and behaviour is testimony to the Christ in us intentionally reaching out to others graciously (1 Peter 3:14-16).