Summary: Exposition of 1 Peter 3:8-22
Suffering for Righteousness in an Imperfect Church
Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. For, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.
1 Peter 3:8–22
How should the believer respond to suffering unjustly from other believers?
In this text we see Peter encouraging Christians who are suffering by teaching them how they should respond. However, the context of verse 8 has to do with believers. He tells them to “live in harmony with one another.”
This means that some of the suffering that would be happening in these churches might be happening from one another. This is a reality that many believers aren’t really aware of. They expect the church to be perfect and to always be different from the world. However, people in the church are sinful, and they are being remade into the image of Christ. Also, in the church, there are always those who are not truly born again. Christ says in Matthew 7 that there will be many who call him “Lord, Lord” who aren’t truly saved and practice iniquity (v. 22, 23).
This makes the church a place where people sometimes suffer from one another. Problems often are compounded in a church when there is a difficulty, such as a financial crisis or persecution from outside. In fact, we saw this with Israel in the wilderness and how they responded in their difficult situation toward Moses and Aaron. Even though these people had been delivered from Egypt, Egypt was still in the hearts of many of the Jews. For that reason, they often persecuted Moses. They talked about stoning him; they accused him and talked bad about him. Even Christ was persecuted by those who claimed to be the people of God. We should be aware that this happens in the church as well. It happens because of sin and sometimes because the people may not truly born again. Understanding this should make us prepared for difficulties we will at times encounter among the people of God.
Let me share that at the first church I served at, it split before I came and it split a year after I was there. I was the youth pastor, but it was a sobering reality of sin and the difficulties that often happen in a community of believers. Churches can often be messy, and Christians need to know how to serve in an imperfect church and to work through these difficulties together.
Does that mean we should bail on the church because it often may not be healthy? Absolutely not! I have known many students who have fallen away because they have seen the messy side of the church. We should not leave the church; it means that we must be salt in the church. We must be the ones laboring to live in harmony with one another—the peacemakers (1 Peter 3:8). When we are mistreated, we must respond not with evil but in a godly manner. By doing this, we help bring transformation amongst the people of God.