Posted by: Brad Beaman | January 24, 2011

Seeking right relationships

We quite often hear alarming reports about declining education. Tests scores dropping for students. This is a serious matter that needs to be addressed.

But there is another finding that is serious but does not receive the same attention. When discovering why those fail at their jobs their employers rarely list troubles with reading, writing or arithmetic. In the great majority of the time they fail at their job because of poor people skills. They fail because they do not relate well to their boss or their co-workers or customers.

When I graduated from college I went through a series of what are sometimes known as stress interviews. It is common for these interviews to last eight hours moving from one interviewer to another. In all those interviews they never asked me a single question about trigonometry, algebra or calculus.

They asked me questions like, how are you at 22 years of age, never having worked a day in the factory, going to supervise people who have worked here for 35 years? These are people skills questions. That is what makes or breaks a worker on the job.

Then when I finally land my dream job at Quaker Oats supervising workers who have been there 35 years they send me off to a supervisor training center in Chicago. I don’t remember any instruction at this training on computers, or calculating line performance percentages. Instead we discussed how to confront a factory worker who had a serious case of halitosis. How to solve the problems this was causing with his co-workers.

Peter deals with relationship issues in this passage. You can’t really get more practical than how to relate well to people. Peter the impulsive fisherman seems like an unlikely seminar leader for how to win friends and influence people.

In Luke 22:32 Jesus prayed for Peter that he would be strengthened and build up his brothers. This whole book written to struggling persecuted believers seems to be an answer to Jesus prayer. Peter traveled with his wife 1 Corinthians 9:5 and that showed his priority on relationships.

Peter speaks of three types of relationships that when running smoothly will help you love life and see good days. These are relating to fellow Christians, antagonistic unbelievers and your relationship with the Lord.

1 Peter 3: 8-22
8 Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. 9 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. 10 For,
“Whoever would love life
and see good days
must keep his tongue from evil
and his lips from deceitful speech.
11 He must turn from evil and do good;
he must seek peace and pursue it.
12 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.”
13 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.” 15 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, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 17 It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. 18 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, 19 through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison 20 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, 21 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, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.

Relating to fellow Christians vs. 8

Peter has been addressing various groups like husbands, wives, slaves but now he says all of you, addressing all believers. He says live in harmony with one another. Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity (Psalm 133:1).

In one sense this may be harder for us to practice than the Christians Peter is speaking to. It is written to scattered persecuted believers. In Acts 2 we saw where believers held all things in common and there was a harmony.

This kind of pressure tends to unite believers. The petty issues melt away in times of persecution. Faith in Christ becomes central. Divisions among Christians cans cause so much damage. But even though we may find it harder to unite in less persecuted times, we are called to do it for Christ’s sake.

Along with a call to harmony comes a call for a sympathetic spirit. A sympathetic person hurts and feels pain when another he loves and cares about suffers. That is vulnerability and especially so with so much hurt and heartache all around us.

Be a compassionate, tenderhearted person. The Bible calls the hard hearted to plow up the hardened soil of their heart. Be humble and don’t think of yourselves as superior. Romans 12:1 says to think of others above yourself.

This is how you relate to other Christians with harmony, sympathy, brotherly love, compassion and humility. God calls you to exercise these principles when you relate to others.

Relating to Antagonistic Unbelievers

Now we really move into the realm of the difficult. If we need God’s grace to love fellow Christians then what about those who would deliberately inflict evil upon you? Does a Christian retaliate when wronged?

Peter says do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult but with a blessing. To return good for evil is Christ like. Pray for and bless those who wrong you. A Christ like retaliation is to bless the one who wrongs you.

During one of Abraham Lincoln’s tough campaigns for the presidency William Stanton poked fun at him. Stanton asked “Why do they go to Africa looking for monkeys when they can find one at Springfield, Illinois?”

When Lincoln became president he awarded William Stanton the Cabinet post Secretary of War. Lincoln felt Stanton would be the best qualified person. When Lincoln was shot Stanton said, “There lays the greatest ruler of men the world has ever known.” It is a testimony of the power of returning evil with a blessing.

Do you want to love life and have good (happy) days? Watch your tongue and don’t speak lies. Deception will only bring misery. Deal honestly with the worldly. If you let your yes be yes it will stand out. There are so few with that kind of integrity.

What is going to harm you if you do good (vs. 13)? You speak kind words to those who insult you. Keep a tight rein on the tongue and do good and you get along well with people.

But when it happens that in doing good you suffer and are persecuted (vs. 14), blessing will follow when you suffer for doing good. At these times remember vs. 12, God knows what is happening. The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous and he will hear your prayers.

Don’t fear these who can destroy your body Jesus said, fear God He has the power over the soul. If you find yourself doing right and suffering for it that is commendable. Others may take shortcuts and get away with it.

Your relationship with the Lord

In your hearts set Christ apart as Lord (vs. 15). When we read about Peter in the gospels it seems like nothing the Lord said sunk in. Now here he is as an eloquent theologian. Peter gives a strong theological statement about Christ, about what He did on the cross. Our relationship with the Lord is the most important relationship of all.

Peter brings home the point the Jesus suffered for doing good. Peter outlines Christ’s decent from heaven to death. Hades is the realm of death rather than the place of punishment hell. Jesus resurrected from the dead, ascension to the right hand of God where he rules with power and authority.

It is Christ’s resurrection that saves you, brings you to God. And Peter emphasizes that your baptism is a symbol of your salvation, a pledge of a good conscience. When you relate to God, set Christ apart as Lord, you are always ready to give an answer. An answer to everyone who asks you the reason for the hope that is in you.

When you have this kind of relationship with the Lord that Peter is talking about in this passage people will ask you about it. After coming to Christ people asked me what happened, I seemed happier. Love life and see happy days (vs. 10).

The only way for relationship to God is through Jesus Christ. Jesus died the righteous for the unrighteous (vs. 18) to bring us to God. Do you have that? This is the invitation for you today.

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