Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Reading Scripture with John Calvin: 1 Peter 3.8-9

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.

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COMMENTARY:

This section is another fine exhibition of Calvin’s love of brevity: these two verses are given less than two pages of comment. Calvin understands these verses, coming as they do after a long list of advice and admonishments to various types of people, to be “general precepts which indiscriminately belong to all.” Furthermore, these things are “especially necessary to foster friendship and love,” something that was always at the forefront of Calvin’s mind even though many people have a rather different stereotype of him.

What Calvin has to say about being like-minded is interesting in that he affirms that “friends are at liberty to think different” but also says that “to do so is a cloud which obscures love; yea, from this seed easily arises hatred.” I don’t know quite what to do with this except to chalk it up to dialectic – we are to seek a balance between utter freedom of thought and utter conformity of thought.

Another point that Calvin makes strongly has to do with being humble. He calls humility
“the chief bond to preserve friendship, when every one thinks modestly and humbly of himself; as there is nothing on the other hand which produces more discords than when we think too highly of ourselves. Wisely then does Peter bids us to be humble-minded…lest pride and haughtiness should lead us to despise our neighbors.”
Finally, Calvin sums these verses up nicely when he writes
“Peter teaches us in general, that evils are to be overcome with acts of kindness. This is indeed very hard, but we ought to imitate in this case our heavenly Father, who makes his sun to rise on the unworthy.”

1 comment:

Drew said...

I almost read this to suggest that we ought to be humble to concede a point when it makes sense to do so for the greater good. So love is the arbiter to resolve the dialectic between the individual and the other.