Returning Blessing for Evil
Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; 9 not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing. I Peter 3:8-9
In I Peter 3:9, Peter is challenging Christians to "bless those who persecute you," (Romans 12;14). This is difficult even for veteran Christians. It does not seem natural to respond kindly to those who mistreat us. Thankfully Peter offers further instruction on how and why to exemplify Christ in this way.
Peter prefaces this teaching by first instructing us how to treat people in verse 8. Specifically, verse 8 tells us how to deal with other Christians. We need to be united in our devotion to God. We have to show compassion for one another and love each other as a family. We have to be tender-hearted, not holding others to a higher standard than we hold oursleves. Out of courtesy for one another, we need to always remain humble.
What does this have to do with blessing those who persecute us? The appropriate behavior of a Christian starts in-house. For one, this mutual love within a church family provides a place of comfort away from the persecutions we endure from the world. Beyond that, if we cannot treat our fellow Christians in this spirit of gentleness, then there is no way we will treat others how we are supposed to.
When Christians live with this spirit of gentleness, we are presenting the world with an image of a better life - a life with Christ. We need to take this behavior out into the world and show them what it looks like to follow Him. Remember what Peter says, "you were called to this," (I Peter 3:9).
So why should I accept suffering and repay persecution with blessing? Because we have hope that those of the world do not have. A few verses down in I Peter 3:15 we read, "But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear." The hope of heaven we share means we just look at the world differently. Persecution is no fun, but it's not the end of the world. Also, consider what reason you give people to ask about your hope. When you respond to evil with blessing, that unexpected reaction might just be the catalyst needed to get someone to ask about why your behavior is different. This opens a door to talk about the hope you have in Christ. After all, this is your purpose as a Christian.
So what if they do not ask about your hope? At the very least you will have "a good conscience," (I Peter 3:16). The worthiness of your meek, gentle behavior is not found in the response of others. Your gentleness is worth it because it is God's will, (I Peter 3:17).
At the end of the day, you are called to follow Christ. You do that by treating your fellow Christians well, and by treating those of the world well. Hopefully they see your example and you have an opportunity to share your hope with them. If not, you are still following Christ's example, as He also suffered unustly (I Peter 3:18), and returned blessing for evil.