Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.
As I look around at the political scene of our day, certainly in North America, 1 Peter 2:1 is a word for our time. Malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, slander – all of these have infused public discourse. But it’s not just in the political sphere. These vices are common elements in human interactions generally – default settings, as it were. They don’t always run rife, but it seems they are ready to inject themselves whenever the door opens even a crack in their direction. Certainly, Peter thought they were an issue in his day, in the church no less. We would be foolish to assume they’re not an issue still.
The passage starts with “Therefore.” The old principle in down-home Bible Study is that when encountering this word you ask what the “therefore” is there for. So, we look back to the end of the previous chapter. Peter has called us to a “sincere love for your brothers” (1:22) on the basis of being born again by the enduring word of God, a word that “stands forever” (1:25). Since this is the case, Peter says – on that basis, because it’s true, “therefore” – get rid of all these vices which so easily intrude into human hearts and relationships.
Certainly if “sincere love for the brothers” is to thrive, these things need to be decisively put aside. If we’re to love like Jesus, we can’t allow any excuse or rationale to preserve space in our heart for any of these.
Just to drive it home let me share a graphic word definition I came upon this past weekend while preparing to preach. I was ruminating over the experience of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego at the fiery furnace and was struck by the passing detail that King Nebuchadnezzar was initially oblivious to the fact these three didn’t bow down to the statue of gold when everyone else did. Some bureaucratic functionaries had to point it out to him. In doing so, we’re told that they “maliciously accused” Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Apparently, the phrase literally means “to eat the pieces of flesh torn off from someone’s body.”
Somehow that image, graphically and horribly, brings home the intensity of the vices described in our present passage. Malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, slander. No wonder Peter says “rid yourselves” of it all! There is no possibility of having sincere love for brothers and sisters if we hang on to any of it.
So, we circle back to the word of God. The word which always endures, which stands forever. Crave it. Just like a newborn baby craves pure milk. Elsewhere this image of “milk” is used disparagingly, highlighting the immaturity of believers (1 Cor 3:2, Hebrew 5:12-13). Here it’s entirely positive. Drink deeply. Grow strong in your salvation. Live like Jesus. Love one another sincerely.
Because in drinking deeply – tasting this milk – you discover again that the Lord is good. Good indeed.
Dear Lord, I acknowledge that there is a propensity in my heart to default to malice and slander and all. If not outwardly, at least inwardly. I chose to lay it down. To set it aside. Strengthen me instead to embrace the goodness of your word that calls me to sincere love for brothers and sisters. Help me to love like Jesus. Amen.
Reflect: Are you aware of any relationship in which you are harbouring malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, or slander? If so, name it. Confess it to the Lord. What step can you take this day to put it aside – to rid yourself of it?