"To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead." (1 Peter 3:8-9)All the commands to husbands and wives, citizens and servants, have lead up to this point, that God wants us to live in harmony with all people, as much as it depends on us. Paul writes, "If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men." (Romans 12:18) Given a choice, God desires us to choose peace over strife and reconciliation over alienation; when offended, to bless, when wronged, to forgive. It is as Jesus said, "But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek." (Matthew 5:39) When conflict arises, we should seek resolution and not escalation. It should not be tit-for-tat or blow-for-blow. I have seem many marriages where a simple conflict blows way out of proportion where each seeks to return a verbal blow with another blow with increasing force and pain. One wounds and the other returns in kind. Such a life is contrary to the life of grace, mercy, forgiveness, and peace that we have been called to.
"For you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. For, 'The one who desires life, to love and see good days, must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit. He must turn away from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous, and His ears attend to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.' " (1 Peter 3:9-12)Called for what purpose? For pursuing peace and reconciliation with our fellow man. I have known people who have lived in contentious relationships and, to a one, they have been relationships that were devoid of blessing. King Solomon spoke of the grief that comes from contentious relationships. "It is better to live in a desert land than with a contentious and vexing woman." (Proverbs 21:19) and to show that not only women can be contentious, "Like charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, so is a contentious man to kindle strife." (Proverbs 26:21) The Hebrew word for "contention" speaks of a contest or a quarrel. When, in any relationship, we contend for our own rights and needs, we sow discord and strife, and blessing if far from us. However, when we honor and content for the rights and needs of the other, then harmony surrounds us and blessing if our attendant. Stopping the cycle of contention is hard, and even harder the more it gets "wound up." That is why Paul reminds us to, "Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity." (Ephesians 4:26-27) The longer we allow contention and anger to marinate our relationships, the harder it is to resolve and to reconcile both parties to peace. We must learn to stop the cycle of blow-for-blow by being willing to "turn the other cheek" and to be willing to receive wrong without responding in kind. Paul asks this question, "Actually, then, it is already a defeat for you, that you have lawsuits with one another. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded? On the contrary, you yourselves wrong and defraud. You do this even to your brethren." (1 Corinthians 6:7-8) Why not rather be wronged? Why must we sacrifice blessing for winning some relational contest? Why not rather pursue peace and the blessings that follows? This is the purpose we have been called to.