Today’s reading was 1 Peter 3:8-9
8 Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.9 Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.
In the earlier version of the NIV (1984), the first command was to “live in harmony with one another.” The fact that it needs to be commanded suggests that this is not a natural state of being, and needs to be worked at. How many of us, with a contrary nature, actually look for opportunities to disagree with others? Or maybe it’s just our default.
The call to be sympathetic requires us to do something that no other creature can do, as far as we know: to imagine what the emotional world of another is like, and then respond accordingly. Although true empathy may require that we have gone through the same experience, sympathy does not. It means that we simply take the time to imagine how the other person is feeling, to ask the question, “What kind of day have they had that they just responded to me like that?” As we are willing to take three seconds to ask that question, it will give enough time to short-circuit our caustic comeback from their comment.
Be compassionate: act gently with each other. Given the choice, go the gentle road rather than the harsh road. If my wife seems stressed when I come home from work, and says something that I don’t appreciate (which is very rare), I can respond in kind, or I can say, “Sounds like you’ve had a hard day” which opens the door to much better communication.
And humble: ah, here we get to it. The opposite of humility is pride. How many issues are caused because we simply are too proud to admit we are wrong, or to see the other side of an issue. I made a parenting mistake with my son this week, and was very annoyed with myself. The saving grace was that I knew it, and was careful to apologize to him. There were two reasons for this: 1. I had made the mistake and hurt his feelings, and it was simply the right thing to do. 2. I want to model taking responsibility for my errors and apologizing/asking for forgiveness. I want him to learn that while he is young so that it comes easier to him as an adult. I think pride is one of the greatest enemies of our relationships (as well as selfishness) and if I can nip that in the bud by being humble, I should take every opportunity.
So today, if you are provoked in any way, do not repay evil with evil, but with blessing. Turn the tide. Change the mood. Do better. It’s counter-intuitive. It’s the kingdom.