1 Peter 1.13-16
13 Therefore prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed. 14Like obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires that you formerly had in ignorance. 15Instead, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; 16for it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’
At verse 13, the author has completed his greeting and blessing and turns now to the body of his letter. (ref. Senior, Donald, in The New Interpreter’s Study Bible) Those to whom he writes (or we who read his communication across the years) should prepare themselves – a direct translation of the Greek would read “Gird up the loins of your mind”, a rather colorful metaphor – but more specifically, prepare their / our minds for action, through discipline.
How do we prepare our minds? What we read, what we habitually focus our minds on, leads them into habits, into one track or another. This month, in our world, it is easy to let our minds get drug down into the negativity of political ads (from all sides) – we find ourselves arguing or agreeing with the ads, arguing the points with other people, generally drug into a negative attitude. That is being conformed, and what is worse, it is allowing someone to buy our conformity. By contrast, we can practice the spiritual disciplines and take our minds elsewhere (and try hitting mute when a political ad comes on). That is what Peter is speaking of here, and what Paul speaks of in Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Our minds are prepared, renewed, and transformed by the disciplines of prayer, scripture reading and study, Christian fellowship and community, learning together, and worshipping together.
The aim is to set our hope on Jesus Christ, not on the politics or material things of this world. The persecuted people to whom the author writes are to set their hope on Jesus, and on the grace he brings. For people who are living in hard times, the author says, there is hope of a new time – Jesus will return and he will provide an abundance of grace to them when he does. In other words, the hard times in which they live will not be the end; there is something good to come, and it will be revealed in Christ.
Let me digress a moment – contrast the author’s view of “end times” and Christ’s return to the “Left Behind” movie that was just released. The return of Christ is not the end of the world, but a beginning in which all things are made new; it is not a time to fear, but a time to anticipate. For Christ brings grace and love – judgment, yes, but grace and love with it. The “Left Behind” books, and movie, are based on terrible theology (called Dispensationalism) that was begun in the 19th century by a British evangelist named Darby, was promoted by Scofield in his “study Bible”, and is not scriptural.
But back to Peter – the recipients of his letter, looking forward with hope toward Jesus, should conduct themselves in the meanwhile in a way that is holy, as Christ was holy. What does it mean to be holy? Here again, our modern thinking blocks our understanding. We see “holy” and think, “holier than thou”, which was a behavior even Jesus, who really was holier than anyone, never indulged. To be “holy” is to live like Jesus. From what we have read of him in Mark, he cared for people, ordinary people, all sorts of people, including sinners and tax collectors. He even cared for the Pharisees, although he often confronted them. He forgave people, even those who persecuted him; and mostly, he loved. Jesus’ behavior was always marked by love. If we are to be “like” him, we must love one another, care for one another, forgive one another.