“So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.”
1 Peter 2:1
Imagine a king who adopts a formerly homeless child. A big part of the adjustment the child would need is simply to realize the stark difference between the person they were before and the person they are now. There would be statements like “Princesses do not eat out of the trash,” or “It would be nice for you to shower more than once a week.” Much in the same way, the Christian life is about ‘becoming what you already are.’ When you arrive at this first verse of chapter 2 having read through chapter 1 of 1 Peter, you become quickly aware that when these vices are shunned, it is on the basis of these believers’ new identity in Christ.
Just to recap the basis of the instruction in our verse today, these believers are those who have been “born again” (1:3,23), having been “ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers...with the precious blood of Christ” (1:18-19). The outcome of these realities is that they have “purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love” (1:22).
It must be plain from this summary of the first chapter that these are not ordinary human beings. They are a new creation, purchased by Christ Himself, and saved unto a genuine love! A genuine love for God, and for one another. Therefore it is no shock to us that the next instruction they are given is to “put away” everything that belonged to their former nature.
Following the analogy of the young girl who was adopted by the king, it would have been okay for her to have eaten out of the trash, or gone for days without taking a shower while she remained homeless. But now, she is to realize the worth placed upon her by her adoption into the king’s house and see that her highest goal and commitment must be to become what she has been made: royalty. She is to look at the king and learn what it means to live in the palace. How do people speak here? How do they dress? What do they like? What do they dislike? Her readiness to change in these ways should not simply come from a desire to fit in, but rather from an understanding that she truly belongs there.
The call for the believer is the same: realize that you have undergone a change in the core of your being. You are not who you were before you repented of your sin and believed in the Lord Jesus Christ. The Spirit’s work of regeneration has produced new life (eternal life) in you. And now, it’s time for you to learn what that means practically.
Every single vice listed in our verse today is contrary to sincere brotherly love, and is the opposite of the character of our Lord Jesus, into whose image we are being transformed. Malice is the desire to cause harm to someone. This is completely against the posture of heart that we are called to have even for our enemies. We are to bless those who curse us and to pray for them.
Deceit is the attempt to sell falsehood as truth. It can happen through twisting facts, or performing misleading actions. According to John 8, the devil is the father of lies. Straight from the garden of Eden, this has been the craft that he has perfected for millennia. But we do not have this DNA. We are children of God, and His word is truth (John 17:17). We have been saved by Jesus who is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6), and we have received the Holy Spirit who is referred to as the Spirit of truth (John 14:17). As you can see from the evidence above, deceit has no home in the believer’s life. Therefore, we must put it away.
Hypocrisy is the state of pretense. It is a conscious masking of what truly lies underneath. Christians are sometimes tempted to act as if they are doing better than they actually are. At its core, hypocrisy is caring more about what people think than what God thinks. As those who are infinitely indebted to God, we must care more about what He thinks and commands. Our love is to be sincere, our confession of sin honest, and our pursuit of Christ earnest. Let us not learn to pretend, and we shall truly grow.
Envy is resentment that flows out of comparison of oneself with others. It is believing that someone else has received a blessing that rightly belongs to you, or at least a blessing that you do not think they deserve. At the heart of this sin is a distrust for God’s sovereign distribution of good gifts. We think we could do a better job, simply because we know we would give ourselves more of what we desire. As those who have seen God’s goodness, we are to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep, being content with what we have and concerned for those who lack.
Slander is the utterance of something false that is meant to destroy another person’s image or reputation. Gossip, on the other hand, might be the utterance of a true thing, but with the aim of sinfully revealing another person’s sin or weaknesses. When we gossip or slander, we sit in judgment over those whose information we are spreading. We take God’s position and declare them guilty, dishonoring Christ whose perfect life and sacrificial death stands on their behalf. Such behavior has no place in the lives of those who have been forgiven much. And we have indeed been forgiven much!
In summary, these vices that do not accord to love must not be tolerated by those who have been saved on the basis of God’s love, and saved unto love and good works (love for God and love for neighbour). Therefore, let us put them all away.
Which one(s) of these vices are you most prone to fall into? Pray that the Lord would help you to love Him above all else, and to love your neighbour as yourself, so that you might overcome these unloving vices.