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Called to Bless - 1 Peter 3:8-12

As Christians, we are called to bless others. We are called to bring good into their lives by helping them, serving them, loving them, and seeking peace with them. And so as Peter gives a final set of instructions to all of the exiles, he first tells them who they need to be as God’s people in verse 8 so that they will be able to carry out this calling that he lays out in verse 9. As he so often does, Peter supports his point by returning to the Old Testament, this time drawing from Psalm 34. This Psalm describes the kind of life that God blesses, and Peter uses it to tell the exiles who to be and what to do in order to fulfill God’s calling in a hostile society.

Here’s the mission: bless the world. Here’s how: by proclaiming Jesus, by imitating Jesus, by showing Jesus, and in those senses being Jesus. And in order to bless the world by being Jesus to them, we need to be likeminded, compassionate, loving, tender-hearted, and humble-minded.

This means, that we have to put our natural impulses to death. When we encounter hostility from the world, we can’t run and hide and protect ourselves. When someone smacks us on the cheek, we can’t pop them right back. Jesus forbids all forms of retaliation or revenge, but specifically, Peter uses Psalm 34 to focus on retaliating with the tongue. The tongue is the primary instrument of spreading the gospel, and it is also the first instrument of persecution, so it is especially important that Christians who are preparing to face persecution get serious about sanctifying their tongues. When Christians are mocked, slandered, lied about, or laughed at, do you complain? Do you curse? Do you whine about how you are being treated? Target these sins of the tongue for destruction. Turn away from evil, and do good. Don’t curse; bless.

That’s the context for the list of virtues in verse 8. In order to give Jesus to others, you have to have Him yourself! If these attributes describe your church, then you are able to be a blessing to the world. Notice, though, that these virtues are not individual virtues. You can’t practice like-mindedness by yourself, or be compassionate on your own! There is no such thing as brotherly love without brothers. These aren’t individual character traits, they are virtues that sustain a community in her life together.

Practically, this means that you should be pursuing more opportunities for fellowship with the whole gathered congregation, not just a family or two. Prioritize corporate prayer meetings, Psalm Sings, and workdays. These events aren’t just options for overflowing calendars. They are the lifeblood of like-mindedness, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. By sharing time and experiences together, we start to develop one mind, and we build the trust it takes to be humble enough to follow someone else’s plans or ideas. By living and serving and praying and playing and eating and drinking together, we develop compassionate, tender hearts towards each other.

But we can never forget that our community has an open door. Our community is not just for us; it’s for the world. In an important sense, the blessing that God offers to the world is the Church. Come here, and find life! Come here to find unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind! Come here to join with us in seeking peace and pursuing it, in loving life and seeing good days!

If we in the Church aren’t living that life, then we have nothing to offer, no blessing to give! And if we turn turtle at the first sign of trouble, snapping back at whoever is poking us, or closing ourselves up in our protective shell, then we are selfishly keeping God’s blessing all to ourselves, and failing to live up to our calling.

We all need to be living virtuously with one another, so that we can be a blessing to the world. But Peter has one more step in his exhortation, and it’s good news: you are called to bless, so that you may inherit a blessing. We don’t just hand the blessing off to others; we share in it ourselves! So this is what we need to be like-minded about: when persecution comes to our community, we leave the door open so that the blessings of God can be shared with the world. This is the way that we inherit the blessing of life and good days that God sent into the world in Christ, and now gives to the world through the Church.

Posted on Wednesday, September 14, 2016 by CJ Bowen