The Christian’s Duty to Hope
According to the Apostle Peter, Christians are a privileged people. In just three verses (1 Peter 1:10-12) he showed that they obtain an ancient salvation. All the prophecies of the Old Testament were written for their benefit. In particular, the message of Jesus Christ – which they are privileged to hear – is so celestial that even angels wish to bend down and examine more closely its contents.
What does this incredible ‘Christian privilege’ result in? Nothing less than an obligation to hope.
“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:13)
The command itself is clear: set your hope fully on…grace. But it is accompanied by two secondary commands – As you are setting your hope on the coming grace, be sure to also prepare your minds for action and be sober.
Preparing the Mind for Action
First, Christians are to hope even while they are preparing their minds for action. A more literal translation, found in earlier Bible versions, is that we are to ‘gird up the loins of your mind.’ But what could that possibly mean?
Ancient Hebrew men did not wear trousers like modern men (in fact, the ancient Romans laughed at these garments as clothing only worn by Barbarian women!) Rather, they wore robes – loose, flowing garments that could easily trip you up. What was a Hebrew man to do when he suddenly needed to run a race, ford a river, or fight a battle? Running with those flowing robes, he would land flat on his face. His solution was to gird up his loins, which meant that he tucked the bottom end of his robe into his belt.
Of course, you can’t literally ‘gird up the loins of your mind.’ Instead, this is a mindset command – it does not so much describe what you do or don’t do, as how you think.
Later in this book, the apostle describes Christians as exiles, or temporary dwellers in a foreign land. As someone who has traveled throughout the world, I can guarantee that travelers do not have the same mindset as citizens. When the traveler wakes up in the morning, he finds himself in a foreign place. He checks his schedule and itinerary, ensures that he has the tickets required for the day’s journey, and verifies that his passport is not missing. As the traveler walks down the road, he is examining everyone that walks by. Is this person someone I can trust? Do I need to be concerned about a pickpocket? Do I still have my wallet? The traveler has a mind prepared for action.
Christians are travelers, resident aliens, in a foreign country. This world is at war with the kingdom of Christ, the kingdom that we are citizens of. ‘Girding up the loins of our minds,’ or ‘having minds prepared for action’ is not optional. It is essential for spiritual survival and success.
This is another mindset command. It means much more than ‘do not be drunk with wine.’
If you think about a drunk man, staggering backward and forward, laughing, downing another bottle of beer, then stumbling forward and falling flat on the ground – this exactly describes the world.
The world is mindless, ignorant, and slap-happy – completely clueless, and they actively try to remain clueless – about the great questions of eternity, of God, and of significant spiritual matters. The world is laughing and joking, even while their eternal souls are suspended on a thread, ready at any moment to fall into the fires of hell. Do not be like that! Be sober-minded, because your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour!
Set your hope on the coming grace
Last week we experienced the most shocking upset of modern politics. If the election had ended differently, our minds would be prepared for this command. We might think, ‘more than ever, it is essential that we place our hope in God. We need to remember that this world is passing away.’
However, the election went differently than most of us imagined. As a result, your mind might be hardened to this truth. What? Will the kindness of God prevent you from obeying him? Will you think in your mind, ‘ah, now I can rest my mind on earthly things for a few more years?’ Never! If the government is bad, hope in the coming grace. And if the government is decent, or you hope and pray that it will be, then, even more, hope in the coming grace!
What does it mean, to hope in coming grace? It means to place your affections there. Set your mind on Christ, and wean it off the things of this world. One way that you do this is by following the example of the apostle Paul. He said that he beat under his body, and brought it into subjection. He said that all things were lawful for him, but not all things edified him. By disciplining his body, he prevented earthly pleasures and joys from gaining a chokehold on his soul.
When the Bible talks about hope, it uses the word in a very different way than we understand it. You might say, “I hope it will be sunny tomorrow.” That is not how you ‘hope’ in this coming grace, because Biblical hope is not uncertain. Biblical hope is certain, because it is rooted in the faithful character of God.
Peter has been called ‘the apostle of hope.’ This theme shows up constantly in his writing. The coming glory and hope that Christians have is significant for him. He is eagerly expecting it, trembling with anticipation for that day, when he will see his Savior again, and when he will come to Christ – not with faltering faith, like when he walked on water and began to sink – but when he sees His Master Jesus in the sky, and flies through the air, Jesus fully focused in his gaze the whole time! Yes, Peter is the apostle of hope, and Christians, now as much as ever, have a duty to hope.