In the context of I Peter 3, the writer is telling husbands and wives how to treat each other and how to be "couples" who bring honor to God. In the midst of this come some very practical words, which I don't think apply to married couples alone. These words are pertinent to all of us - yet we can never forget the context in which they are written. If these are important for married couples to learn, they are equally as beneficial for us "single" folks to get hold of, too!
Summing up: Be agreeable, be sympathetic, be loving, be compassionate, be humble. That goes for all of you, no exceptions. No retaliation. No sharp-tongued sarcasm. Instead, bless—that’s your job, to bless. You’ll be a blessing and also get a blessing. (1 Peter 3:8-9 MSG)
Okay...seems like a long list of "be's" and "not to be's", right? If you see it this way, you will likely never benefit from the instruction given. First, Peter tells wives to be good to their husbands - responsive to their needs. We can all learn from this - as there is nothing more amazing than to have someone anticipate our needs even before we vocalize them. Peter reminds us of the importance of "living out" our faith - because words are loud, but actions are louder and more convincing. Our "inner disposition" is the thing of concern - not the "prettying up" of ourselves on the outside. Next, Peter tells the husbands to honor their wives - bring them onto an "equal" plane. In the times he writes, women were clearly disregarded as not "favored" in the culture - they had a position of lesser "value". The elevation of a woman as an "equal" was a new concept to these husbands. So, in telling them to "elevate" or "honor" them, he is reminding the husbands of the work of God in making us all equally "valued" in his kingdom.
So, now this brings us to our passage today. Here we find Peter beginning to "sum up" some instruction he had for the believers (including us). He laid out some "relationship" pointers which will get us a long way in life if embraced as a way of life. Most importantly, he lays them out as indicators of a changed life. When these things are evident in us, there is a "trackable" evidence of the actions of God's grace in us. It is important to recognize what he tells us - there are "NO EXCEPTIONS" - these instructions go for all of us.
Four instructions, each beginning with one very small word - "Be". In clear instruction, Peter tells us to make it happen! This is what "be" means - to make it exist. This means we have some action on our part - it is not just something we are "graced" with and "poof", we are suddenly agreeable, sympathetic, loving and compassionate, let alone humble! These are things which need to be developed in us - our wills "collaborating" with the Holy Spirit and his instruction until we see evidence of these traits clearly in our relationships.
Agreeable suggests the character he was requiring of the husband and wife in the previous verses - to be conformable to the needs and desires of the other. It carries the idea of being compatible. If you have ever found yourself "compatible" with another, you might also have found yourself in a position of accommodating their needs. You are "flexible" rather than rigidly resistant to their ideas. This is an amazing thing when it happens - two people so "compatible" they just fall into sync with each other. First, we need to find ourselves this way with God - falling into sync with what he desires of our lives, then with each other.
Sympathetic suggests the idea of being "congenial". A big word, so let me break it down a little. He is telling us to be "tender" in how we treat another. In other words, we are "kind" to the other person - even when kindness may not be deserved. You know, I have learned more in the moments when someone extends kindness when my manifested character deserved something more closely resembling a good knock up side of my noggin! Agreeable people (those who can accommodate to the needs of another) find it a bit easier to be sympathetic - to feel compassion for another. Loving and compassionate are just outflows of the first two traits. When we are agreeable and sympathetic, we are also reflecting the love and compassion of a gracious Savior.
The last thing he tacks on is the idea of being humble. I think Peter may have been reminding each of us to stop pretending here. Relationships go nowhere when there is not honest transparency. As long as we are content to pretend with another - to be something we are not - we will never really understand the depth of relationship he was pointing out as possible. Then, without another breath, he adds two more instructions which are really linked together with these others: No retaliation, No sharp-tongued sarcasm. "Real" people (those who are totally transparent) get the idea of not throwing stones at glass houses! When we are transparent, we feel like glass houses - no one wants "stones" of retaliation or sarcasm cast their way when they are vulnerable enough to be exactly who they are with you!
Just some thoughts on relationships this morning. I may not be a wife, but I see some great value in the lessons Peter is teaching! Just sayin!