Unlike recent generations, for almost all of human history people took for granted that life was not predictable; that disease, the inability to travel, early age death, or the risks of child-bearing were simply a part of life. Recent decades of relative peace, prosperity, and comfort have dulled many of us in highly developed nations to these historic, common human realities. I have found it most helpful over the past number of weeks to consider the long history of the church Christ and see how Christians understood life and their relationship to the Lord. One example is the beautifully written and deeply devotional 1662 version of the Book of Common Prayer, which contained prayers for times of pestilence. The Prayer Book was a call to Christians to trust in Scripture as the lens through which God’s working in their world would be understood and appreciated.
So let us turn to the Scriptures and continue our various reflections from 1 Peter. As we have often noted in this space as we have worked through many of the themes of the letter, Peter’s readers were well acquainted with trials, suffering, and persecution. As he closes his letter in chapter 5, how does he instruct the church to live in a world with real struggle and, in particular, a real spiritual enemy – the devil? He exhorts them to be: “sober minded” and “watchful”. This echoes his previous instruction in 1:13 to: “prepare 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”; and in 4:7: “be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers”. To be “sober-minded” is to be on the alert, ready for action; yet also having our thoughts, actions, and disposition marked by spiritual self-control. He implores them to root their hopes in Christ for the devil prowls around looking to “devour”. The word translated devour means to swallow, drown, or consume. He knows he cannot pluck you from Christ’s saving and sure hand; but he would love to have you consumed with his fear, and to distort your understanding of God’s goodness. So Peter not only exhorts but reminds them of their God of grace; the one who calls us to “his eternal glory in Christ” fully trustworthy to “confirm, strengthen, and establish” us, in spite of their current sufferings.
Perhaps you have found yourself consumed with worries and concerns for personal or family well-being. You are not alone. The command Peter gives to be “sober-minded” is deeply personal. On the night of his Saviour’s betrayal and arrest, Peter was in the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. In this moment, this central moment of all human history, Peter slept. He was not “ready for action”, his mind was not “watchful”, and so his spiritual disposition was not prepared to resist temptation. He desires better for us than he was able to deliver himself, for the sake of ourselves and the church. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has introduced the kind of uncertainty and challenge few of us have needed to face. Peter’s command to be sober-minded is critical if we are to not only see the world as God desires us to see it, but to also keep in mind his glorious, ultimate destination.
Missional Action Prayer: Lord, thank you for your steadfast love and faithfulness that grounds me in the sure, living hope of Jesus. Help me to see the world and its circumstances as you wish me to see them, and thereby enable me to better love you and my neighbour.