How Peacemaking Commitments Make for the Good Life
In The Grace of Giving, Stephen Olford tells of a Baptist pastor during the American Revolution, Peter Miller, who lived in Ephrata, Pennsylvania, and enjoyed the friendship of George Washington.
In Ephrata also lived Michael Wittman, an evil-minded sort who did all he could to oppose and humiliate the pastor. One day Michael Wittman was arrested for treason and sentenced to die.
Peter Miller traveled seventy miles on foot to Philadelphia to plead for the life of the traitor.
“No, Peter,” General Washington said. “I cannot grant you the life of your friend.”
“My friend!” exclaimed the old preacher. “He’s the bitterest enemy I have.”
“What?” cried Washington. “You’ve walked seventy miles to save the life of an enemy? That puts the matter in different light. I’ll grant your pardon.” And he did.
Peter Miller took Michael Wittman back home to Ephrata–no longer an enemy but a friend.
Peter Miller lived the good life as 1 Peter 3:8-12 prescribes it.
The text explains how to love life and see good days in spite of evil and reviling that at times can threaten us and our churches. It takes showing grace and refusing revenge and giving blessing.
Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless! Really? This is radical. It is counter intuitive. It’s the essence of unconditional, Christ-following/imitating love.
Can you hear the echoes of Jesus’ teaching from Luke 6:27-29?
But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either.
It resonates with Paul’s example in 1 Cor. 4:12–when reviled, we bless–and his teaching in 1 Thessalonians 5:15–See that no one repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.
Perhaps Rom. 12:21 says it best: Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
In the rest of this passage, Peter makes his case for why this kind of radical way of relating should govern our reactions even to our worst persecutors.
The first has to do with the nature of our calling. For to this you were called. In 1 Peter 2:20-21, Peter explained the first of two callings given to believers in the face of persecution in particular.
But here he gives an additional grace-shaped, love-never-fails calling when persecuted and reviled–-returning blessing for evil.
The second reason for committing to this kind of radical way of relating has to do with the nature of our reward. See the motivation at the end of v. 9?–-that you may obtain a blessing.
I think Peter means for us to look at this in terms of the present life and not the next. Consider how he defends his point in verses 10-12. He quotes Psalm 34:12-16, a psalm of David, when he came under attack by Abimelech and the Philistines.
Look at v. 10. For–-there’s his reason–He who would love life and see good days. That’s not talking about eternity; that’s talking about here and now.
This holds out a promise for a quality of life on earth, even for the believer enduring terrible persecution and conflict of all kinds.
As you head into 2018, do you need to adjust your expectations about the good life you desire?
Be sure to leave room for blessing an enemy.