How should we live (Part 4:)
© 2021 C. O. Bishop
1st Peter 3:8-14; Colossians 3:13-17, 18-23; Ephesians 4:1-3
We have been studying through the book of 1st Peter. We read through a passage explaining “how we were to live, because of our position in Christ.” One of the issues mentioned was our marriage relationship, but the concepts extend into all other relationships. The key relationship for all believers is our relationship with Christ, which is reflected in all other relationships.
The relationship which most closely pictures our relationship with Him is the marriage relationship, so it receives some fairly specific attention. But we are told that how we treat others—how we relate to others—will determine how the World sees Jesus. This is the central message of John 13:35, which says “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” This was the first commandment given by Jesus, after Judas left: Only believers— the eleven remaining disciples—were there to hear the New Commandment. Only believers can do this, and even they can only do so by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Last week, we read 1st Peter 3:5-7, which is specific to marriage, but now Peter returns to the main theme: how we are to live as believers, because of our new position in Christ.
1st Peter 3:8-14
8 Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: 9 Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing. 10 For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: 11 Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it. 12 For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil. 13 And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good? 14 But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye, and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled:
Before we move on to the rest of the teaching regarding how we are to behave in general, we have one more place to read about marriage. Over in Colossians, Paul treated this topic in a similar manner, “sandwiching” the marriage relationship between all the other behavioral instruction. Two short sentences, to sum up all that is included in that precious relationship.
Colossians 3:13-17, 18-23
13 Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. 14 And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. 15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17 And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.
18 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.
20 Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord: for ye serve the Lord Christ. 21 Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.
22 Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God;
23 And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;
All the other relationships are important, of course, but the marriage relationship is the only one given before sin entered into the world, and it is the only one which was specifically designed by God to let us see the Relationship between Christ and the Church.
General Commands Still Apply
All the rest of the “behavior pattern” commands apply even more stringently to the marriage relationship. Marriage is supposed to be the most secure and permanent relationship outside of parent-child relations that can exist. So violating that relationship, whether by abuse or deceit, or unfaithfulness is even more repugnant to God than doing the same things in other relationships.
So let’s look at what he says as far as general commands in relationships, in Colossians 3:13-17:
- Forbearing one another (putting up with and accepting each other as we are.)
- Forgiving one another (accepting the loss and the cost of forgiveness…without either reparations or recriminations.)
- Love one another (“Charity” is the KJV word for Agape love.)
- Live at Peace with one another…let the Peace of God “Rule” (umpire) in your hearts.
- Be thankful. You do have a lot for which to be thankful! Think on it!
- Let the Word of Christ Dwell in you richly in all Wisdom:
- Teaching one another and admonishing one another, (how?)
- In psalms and hymns and spiritual songs
- Singing with Grace in your hearts to the Lord
- Teaching one another and admonishing one another, (how?)
- Do all in the Name of (under the authority and auspices of) the Lord Jesus,
- Giving Thanks to God and the Father by Him.
How do these commands correlate with the commands back in in 1st Peter 3:8-14?
- Be ye all of one mind (maintain unity).
- Have compassion toward one another. Care about others: and do something about it.
- “Love as Brethren” (this is the “phileo” love, given as a command. This means being genuinely friendly: preferring one another’s company as brothers and sisters.
- Be empathetic (“pitiful”: having pity for others.) Weep with those who weep!
- Be courteous: polite…we do not have license to be less than courteous “because we are family”—quite the opposite: Courtesy is part of brotherly love.
- No “payback”—no revenge: instead, provide blessing in place of payback.
- Jesus said “…do good to them that hate you…” (Matthew 5:44)
- We are called to bless, so that we can inherit blessing.
So, how can we apply all the above information? It is easy to see that there is such a thing as a Biblical pattern, a standard we are to use. It is also easy to see that we are to apply the standard to ourselves, not to others: Not to other married couples, not even to our own husband or wife. The “mirror” is pointed at you! At me! Don’t use it to look at others!
We are to accept one another as we are: if there is definite sin involved, we are given specific instructions as to how to deal with that, but the fact is, most of what irritates us in other people is just that: Irritation. It is not thereby “sin” that needs to be “confessed and renounced and have guilt thickly spread over the poor wretch who dared to offend us.”
Notice that in Colossians 3:19, it says, “Husbands love your wives and be not bitter against them.” And, there are no qualifiers added…no “ifs, ands or buts.” Furthermore, over in Ephesians 4:31, 32, it says: “31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and evil speaking, be put away from you with all malice: 32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake, hath forgiven you.”
(Don’t you just love that word “All?” It really covers a lot of territory, and eliminates a lot of “loopholes.”) Notice that the passage in Ephesians is to all believers: not just husbands and wives. So this thing in Colossians, about “bitterness” (hard-hearted grudges and bad feelings) applies to everyone, not just husbands.
And, over in Proverbs 31, when it describes the “perfect wife,” what if we were to apply that passage to the Church, the Bride of Christ? Remember, God designed marriage to show the relationship between Christ and the Church!
Proverbs 31:10-31 lists a number of features, but the key idea is in verses 11 and 12: “The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her so that he shall have no need of spoil. She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.” Then it goes on to describe her industrious character, her kindness toward others, her hospitality, her wisdom in speech and behavior: How she cares for her household, especially her husband and children. The bottom line is that his reputation, his belongings and his children are safe in her care: He can confidently back her in everything she says or does, because she always acts in his best interest, and in such a way as to honor him.
Of course that is a great standard for a wife to consider, but, if we are collectively the “Bride of Christ”, shouldn’t we all, every one of us, apply those truths to our own lives? Consider:
- In what way am I “honoring the Lord in everything I say and do?”
- In what way do I enhance His reputation by my behavior?
- Can Jesus really count on me to faithfully treat others as He would treat them?
- Providing for those He has entrusted to my care, putting their needs ahead of mine?
- Speaking kindly to (and about) others in every circumstance?
- Do I open my mouth in Wisdom? (Or keep it shut, when that is the best response?)
- Do I provide the Gospel to those around me? (See 1st Corinthians 15:34, 1st Peter 3:15)
- Am I being “about my Father’s business” as He was?
In the end, we saw that the “virtuous wife” was rewarded, and honored. We are the Bride of Christ, and, collectively, we will be rewarded and honored. But as individuals, we need to ask, “Will my present actions, thoughts and attitudes be deserving of reward? Will the Lord say, ‘Well done, thou good and faithful Servant’ regarding what I am doing right now?” And if the answer is “no!” then we need to confess it as sin and go do what He has commanded us to do.
Now: is all that just about marriage? Of course it isn’t!
But what better place to practice the life He has called us to live, than in our own homes? If it is real there, then it will spill out into other relationships as well, affecting our children and our extended families, as well as all others around us.
Peter moves on to talk about how we are to fit into society at large, in the rest of this passage: he says, 10For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: 11 Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it. 12 For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil. 13 And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good? 14 But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye, and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled:
In effect, then, he says:
- Watch your mouth! Don’t be a source of evil talk or falsehood!
- Stay out of trouble! Stay away from bad situations. Look for ways to do good!
- Make Peace! Look for ways to build peaceful relations, and follow that way.
He says the Lord is always watching, and His ears are attentive to our prayers, but that he will resist any who are doing evil. The Lord is a perfect supervisor: He sees everything and He understands everything, including our motives and intentions. He never wavers in his righteous response, though sometimes it seems to take a long time, from human perspective. (If you are wondering how to explain the apparent ease in which the wicked people of this World live, and how they seem to “get away with it,” I would invite you to read Psalm 37 and Psalm 73. Between the two of those psalms, I hope you can get God’s perspective on that matter.)
Is it possible that we may suffer for doing right? Absolutely! It is possible! In some places in the world it is not only “possible” but highly probable! And He says we are blessed if that occurs!
What are Our Choices?
When we look at any of God’s commands to us, ultimately we always find only two choices:
- Obey, striving to do exactly and completely as He commanded us, or,
- Not. If I choose to “partially obey,” I am choosing to disobey. If I choose to do something that somehow “parallels” what He says, but is different, I am still choosing to disobey.
I heard about an entertainer, a singer, who was faced with an inebriated customer demanding that he sing a certain popular song. He wasn’t going to sing that song, for a variety of reasons, but he also didn’t want to cause a public quarrel, so he assured the customer that while he couldn’t sing that particular song, the very next song would have a lot of the same notes! The customer was drunk enough to not understand that virtually all songs have “a lot of the same notes,” so he sat back down and the singer simply pressed on as planned.
When we try to do something other than what God asked, even though it may even be something “intrinsically good,” remember that He is not some drunken fool in a bar, who is unable to see that we are flat-out not doing what He commanded. He knows! And, the truth is, we also know that we are not doing what He said to do.
It comes down to a daily, moment by moment “multiple-choice test,” with only two choices for each problem:
- Will I submit my will to that of God and do what He asks me to do, or
- Will I not.
Those are the choices.
You can choose, moment by moment, how to respond to God; how to respond to your husband or wife, how to respond to your children, your coworkers, your employers, your neighbors, or even that “bozo who just cut you off in traffic.” (Or you can make excuses: that is a choice, too!)
Every single step is a choice. That is why we call it “walking:” We just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other, and constantly looking to the Lord for direction, both from His written Word, and from His Holy Spirit.
Is it easy? No! In fact, apart from the Holy Spirit living in us, it is impossible! In John 15:5, Jesus said, “Apart from Me ye can do nothing!” Now, if anyone else said such a thing, it would be incredible arrogance: but when the Lord Jesus said it, it was simply the truth.
So what do we do?
We can’t walk on water. Peter was commanded to walk on water, because he dared to ask Jesus to command him to do so. But what did Peter have to do about it?
- He had to keep his eyes on Jesus!
- He had to get out of the boat!
- He had to put one foot in front of the other, regardless of circumstances.
He started out OK, but he soon forgot #1…he failed to keep his eyes on Jesus! That is where we all most frequently fail, I think. But, I still have to “get out of the boat!” I confess that I simply cannot live the Christian life, but I am commanded to live it! So, I have to “get out of my comfort zone:” look to God to find out what I am to do today, even if it is utterly mundane or really uncomfortable, and then go for it!
Look to Jesus, pray for strength and guidance, and step out! Start putting one foot in front of the other. I’m told that, if we keep putting one foot in front of the other, pretty soon we’ll notice that we are actually “walking!” That is what walking is!
Lord Jesus, teach us to walk with you as your disciples, doing exactly what you command. We know that we fail you constantly, and we depend upon your grace and forgiveness. Please teach us true obedience, and lead us day by day in your service.