Summary: If you want to love life, love people.
Evangelist, Larry Moyer, tells the story of a warden, who asked a prisoner on death row what he would like to eat for his last meal.
The prisoner replied, “I would like to have a huge piece of watermelon.”
The warden said, “You must be kidding? This is December. Watermelons have not been planted, let alone harvested.”
To which the prisoner retorted, “That's okay, I don't mind waiting” (R. Larry Moyer, "Right Smack in the Middle of Sin," Preaching Today, Tape No. 148; www.PreachingToday.com).
That prisoner wanted to hang onto his life a little while longer. He loved life even in prison.
1 Peter 3:8-12 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. For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. 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.” (ESV)
Peter quotes Psalm 34 here, which describes how to love life even when you’re going through hard times. It’s the backdrop for his words in verses 8-9 where he tells his readers how to treat people. So he is saying, if you want to love life, then first of all...
LOVE ONE ANOTHER.
Love your brothers and sisters in the body of Christ. Love your partners in the church.
This is the completion, the perfection, of life. That word for “finally” (telos) in verse 8, literally means the end in terms of reaching a goal. It can’t be the end of Peter’s letter, because he goes on for another two and half chapters.
It reminds me of the boy who visited his friend’s church and afterward told him, “I like your preacher better than mine. When your preacher says “finally,” he finishes. When my preacher says “lastly,” he lasts and lasts and lasts.
Peter is not coming to a conclusion here as much as he’s talking about the goal of life, the thing that completes our lives, and that’s love! He uses five adjectives here in verse 8 to describe what that love looks like.
First, he says, “have unity of mind” – literally, be of the same mind. It’s not that we all have to think exactly alike, but we must at least be playing the same song. It’s like a finely tuned symphony orchestra. The players don’t play the same notes, but what they do play blends together to create beautiful music. So in the church, God wants us to blend together to create a ministry that honors Him beautifully. Be of the same mind.
Then second, “have sympathy” – literally, suffer with each other. When one of us hurts, we all hurt. We weep with those who weep.
And third, “have brotherly love – I.e., love each other as brothers and sisters. It’s okay to disagree sometimes, but at the end of the day don’t let anything separate you, because we’re family.
Have brotherly love, and fourth, “a tender heart” – Literally, have good bowels. In the ancient world, people felt with their bowels. Today, people feel with their hearts, so we might say, “Have a good heart.”
And finally, fifth, have a humble mind” – i.e., a lowly mind. People used the word in Bible days to speak of those who were lowly or servile in their thinking. They often used it in a disparaging way, but the Bible turns it around to speak of those who have a servant’s attitude.
This is what it means to love each other: to serve each other; to be good-hearted towards each other; to treat each other like family; to suffer with each other; and to be of the same mind. This’s the end of life, the goal! Love completes you as an individual, and it completes us as a church. Love makes life worth living. So if you want to love life, love people. And start by loving the people right here in the church.
Philip Yancey, in a Christianity Today article several years ago recalls talking to a pastor from India who said, “Most of what happens in Christian churches, including even miracles, can be duplicated in Hindu and Muslim congregations. But in my area only Christians strive, however ineptly, to mix men and women of different castes, races, and social groups. That's the real miracle.”