For Christians, revenge is never the right option. Period. Peter echoes the teaching of Jesus, as well as that of Paul, in making it perfectly clear that those in Christ—those set apart to a new purpose—are not allowed to “get even.” Peter is writing to believers who were likely experiencing both physical harms and “reviling” (or insults) for their faith in Christ. The way of the world and our normal human impulse is to strike back with the same hurtful treatment we receive. Peter commands us to completely refuse that instinct.
Instead of repaying evil with evil or insult with insult, Peter commands those in Christ to “bless,” or give a blessing. A blessing is a positive statement. For a Christian, it’s a request that God would help another person to succeed in some way, that he or she would experience God’s favor. Why would we ever do such a thing for someone who has hurt or insulted us? Peter answered that question in 1 Peter 2:21–25. We respond with a blessing when given evil, because that’s what Jesus did for us, and He is the one we follow. We’re walking in His steps.
Peter adds two ideas here. First, as Christians, we are called to this work of giving blessings in exchange for evil and insults. That’s part of our purpose as God’s set-apart people on earth. This is a powerful tool for social change, since only forgiveness can break the cycle of revenge.
Second and more mysteriously, as we give blessings for insults and evil, we will obtain or “inherit” a blessing for ourselves. This blessing may mean the eternal life that we’ve already been promised in Christ or, more likely, this blessing points to additional rewards from God in this life and/or in the life to come.
1 Peter 3:8–22 addresses all believers, commanding Christians to be unified and to refuse to seek revenge when wronged. Peter quotes from both David and Isaiah to show that God’s people have always been called to reject evil and to do good. This is true even when we are suffering. In fact, it may be God’s will for His people to suffer, in part, to demonstrate His power. Our good example can convict others into repentance. Christ, too, suffered, died, was resurrected, and ascended to power and authority in heaven.
Peter continues teaching about Christian submission to human authorities, now addressing Christian wives. Believing wives must be subject to their own husbands, even if the husband is not a follower of Christ. By doing so, they might win them to Christ through the example of their own changed lives and hearts. Christian husbands must honor their wives. All believers must live in unity together and refuse to seek revenge. In part, God means to use our hopeful response to suffering to provoke the world to see His power in us. Christ, too, suffered and then died, was resurrected, and ascended to heaven.