Writing at a time when the church found itself in extremis—when Christians were tempted to look only at their immediate circumstances—Peter issues a strong exhortation. He says, ‘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’ (1Pe 1.13).
Arguably one of the greatest errors we can fall into when it comes to understanding grace is that ‘It’s all about me and all about now’. This attitude has reached epidemic proportions in Western churches and may well explain our relative lack of resilience and usefulness compared to other parts of the world. Such a view of grace is, however, not only far-removed from what has been true in the church through most of its history, but from the Bible itself. In a way that may seem surprising, Scripture indicates that there is a dimension of grace that we will only discover and experience in the world to come.
John Piper flagged this up provocatively in the title of his book, Future Grace – spelling out the fact there is a dimension of grace that belongs to the future and cannot be fully experienced in the present. But the fact it is ‘future’ does not mean it has no bearing on our present, nor that it is unable to benefit us in a significant way.
The apostle Peter alerts us to this aspect of the divine favour. Writing at a time when the church found itself in extremis – when Christians were tempted to look only at their immediate circumstances – Peter issues a strong exhortation. He says, ‘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’ (1Pe 1.13).
His choice of words is significant. He begins by challenging his readers over the frame of mind in which they face their current challenges. Even though, as is so often is the case, our mindset – our mode of thinking – can be purely reflexive, reacting to what is happening around us, we need to rise above the immediate to get a more accurate picture. That is why Peter tells us we can only begin to face the challenges of life by consciously engaging our minds.
The King James Version renders it more colourfully and literally with, ‘gird up the loins of your mind’. Peter was using imagery that would immediately resonate with his First Century audience. These people’s normal clothing consisted of flowing robes that needed to be tucked into their belts if they wanted to get somewhere quickly. So, here, Peter calls for unimpeded focus on what really matters in life and, in doing so, tells his readers to look beyond where they were at that moment in time to where they were ultimately going.