When I was a youth I was told that Jesus said his followers would be persecuted (cf. Luke 21:12; John 15:20). When we are baptized, the ceremony reminds us that with the Spirit of God comes also the trials of fire (Luke 3:16). We are not promised a bed of roses by coming to Christ, but we are promised his continual presence with us (Hebrew 13:5; cf. Matthew 28:20b). Usually, just knowing the Lord is with us during difficult times is all that is necessary for us to be content, but, even if I found myself perplexed and in fear, when the trial was over I was often astonished, as I looked back and saw the nearness of Christ and his protection through it all. This is not to say that I (or we) live a life of trouble and persecution. Judging from my own history, we do not. Life is usually wonderful, filled with joy and peace, but trouble does come, and Peter spoke to us in his epistle concerning how those times should be lived out.
In 1Peter 3:13 Peter asks: who in his right mind will harm you for doing good? As a rule those whose lives express love, the fruit of God’s Spirit, which includes being good and kind etc. (cf. Galatians 5:22-23), will be rewarded with people who will seek to react in the same way toward those treating them so. Just as the normal reaction of the flesh would be revenge over evil done, the normal reaction to a kind and good spirit would be kindness in return. Believers are even able to spread goodness and kindness all over the world, if they would simply practice this spirit in their lives, as they relate to others. A few years ago the movie: Pay It Forward, was produced around this principle. In the movie a junior high class was given an assignment by their social studies teacher to come up with an idea that could change the world. A young boy theorized doing something good for three people who couldn’t do what was done for them by themselves. In return they were not to pay the boy back. Rather, they were to help three other people to do what they couldn’t do for themselves, and so on. In the movie doing kind acts became a national phenomenon.
I don’t normally look to Hollywood to preach the Gospel, but this movie comes close (although Christ isn’t mentioned). At least it had the idea of love in correct perspective. Imagine what Christians could do, if we only took this principle to heart that Peter commands in 1Peter 3:8-13. If we don’t respond in kind to those who harm us (1Peter 3:9), but, rather, seek to understand why they behave as they do, sympathizing with them and loving them as though they were our brother (instead of an enemy), approaching them with a tender heart and treating them with respect (1Peter 3:8), doing this alone would cause evil to cease in so many areas of life where evil seems to have a ‘life’ of its own.
This is our calling—paying it forward, even when it hurts us and leaves us open for greater harm when our efforts aren’t appreciated. And, the fact is: Peter claims in 1Peter 3:14a that some will not respond in kind to our expression of love. Nevertheless, this is turned into a blessing on our part, because, if our goodness and kindness (love) is not rewarded in kind by the recipients of our love, God promises he will reward us. He will take our part and reward us for what we did for the sake of love or righteousness (Matthew 5:10-12; Luke 1:48; cf. Acts 5:40-42).
Peter speaks of evil in each of four verses (1Peter 3:9-12). Saying we shouldn’t render evil for evil (1Peter 3:9), and the context there is ‘slandering’ one another. Rather, we should bless those who lie about us or belittle us in some way. We are unable to prevent others from acting this way, but believers are able (through the power of God’s Spirit) to cease from participating in such evil behavior ourselves (1Peter 3:10). The method to avoid evil behavior is not simply not reacting in kind, but acting contrary to how we’ve been treated—by doing good and zealously seeking peace (1Peter 3:11). Why? Because, God’s heart is toward those who do good to reward their efforts by making them successful (peacemakers etc.). However, his face is against those who do evil. Their reward is frustration and a fruitless life (1Peter 3:12).
In each of these verses the Greek word was kakos (G2556). In 1Peter 3:13 Peter uses a different but related word kakoo (2559), asking: who will harm (do evil to) you, if you do good? It certainly wouldn’t be God who rewards us with good, but often it will change the hearts of others who are bent toward evil behavior.