“Hatred corrodes the container that carries it.” These words were spoken by former Senator Alan Simpson at the funeral of George H. W. Bush. Attempting to describe his dear friend’s kindness, Senator Simpson recalled how the forty-first president of the United States embraced humor and love rather than hatred in his professional leadership and personal relationships.
I relate to the senator’s quote, don’t you? Oh, the damage done to me when I harbor hatred!
Medical research reveals the damage done to our bodies when we cling to the negative or release bursts of anger. Our blood pressure rises. Our hearts pound. Our spirits sag. Our containers corrode.
In Proverbs 10:12, King Solomon observes, “Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.” The conflict that results from hatred here is a blood feud between rivaling peoples of different tribes and races. Such hatred fuels the drive for revenge so that people who despise each other can’t connect.
By contrast, God’s way of love covers—draws a veil over, conceals, or forgives—all wrongs. That doesn’t mean we overlook errors or enable a wrongdoer. But we don’t nurse the wrong when someone is truly remorseful. And if they never apologize, we still release our feelings to God. We who know the Great Lover are to “love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).
Ancient letter-writing followed a general formula: opening/greeting, thanksgiving, body, and closing. Each of these sections has distinct subsections and characteristics, and each serves an important function in delivering the message of the writer.
Today’s passage is part of the closing section. It’s also what’s known as a hortatory (“to exhort”) section. Here the writer gives last-minute instructions to the reader. This section isn’t always a well-organized and progressive argument; rather, it’s more like random-fire instructions of everything the writer, through the inspiration of the Spirit, wanted to say but didn’t find a place to say in the body of the letter. Here at the end of his first letter, Peter urges his readers to pray, love, be hospitable, use their gifts, speak God’s words, and serve.