“So put away all malice…”

1 Peter 2:1a

By Pastoral Apprentice John Frick

Malice is the inward longing for something bad to happen to someone else, and even the actions of following through with those thoughts that can take form in slandering them, hurting someone physically, or publicly shaming them.

Those who opposed Christ were driven by malice (Mt. 22:18), yet such feelings were completely absent from him and should also now be from us.

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness… (1Pe. 2:21-24).

You may be thinking that you are not nearly as malicious or evil as the people who put Christ on the Cross. But we are all prone to sin and Christ died for all of us because we could never atone for ourselves.

And now Christ our Lord desires us not to be malicious, but instead “overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:21). However, if putting away malice (or any sin for that matter) was so easy, Peter would not be exhorting and reminding believers to do it and Christ would not have had to take our punishment on the Cross.

In our own lives we can so easily be entangled by malice towards the people we see making racist statements, shooting up a store, or even having a different political opinion. As Christians we should be outraged and mourn because of those who commit blatantly sinful acts against others or ourselves, but we must not repay evil for evil. Justice is ultimately meant to be left to God and not taken into our hands. We should call the cops and use the legal system at our disposal, but it doesn’t mean that our first response or knee jerk reaction should be wishing for the worst and hardest punishment on all who sin against us. We should desire justice to be carried out in our world today, but we must pursue justice the way Christ has laid it out for us.

Christ our Lord shows us so clearly in 1 Peter 2:21-24 that we have to take up his disposition and be patient to those who commit wrongs against us. If we begin to enact our own kind of retribution upon them, then we are not truly understanding what Christ means when he says to love our enemies and pray for them (Mt. 5:44).

When it comes to our context, we are not explicitly tortured like Christ or the Apostles. So then what does putting away malice look like for us?

In our lives it is so easy for us to get frustrated and wish for bad things to happen to the people who “don’t know how to drive,” that manager at work who micromanages, or even that person or family member who yelled at you over something small.

The catch here is that despite all the ways these people may have wronged you or someone else, we are still called not to repay yelling for yelling, micromanaging with snide remarks or slander, or muttering some colorful words under your breath about the other driver. We are called to be patient and understanding with all people (cf. James 1:19-22).

To put off malice must mean to ultimately trust that our heavenly Father will judge the wicked and that it is not our job/role to take vengeance into our own hands. Even if we have been wronged, we are called to be forgiving and patient and longsuffering like our Lord.

Brothers and sisters, during this week let us seek to put off malice by reminding ourselves of Christ’s patience, grace, and forgiveness towards us. As saints the Holy Spirit sanctifies us and works in us, but we must submit ourselves to God’s Word daily in order to put off sin and serve him. Start today by submitting to God’s Word and putting off your malice.