Peter has so far focussed on how his Christian readers were enduring the difficulties they were facing because of the opposition that was causing trouble for them. Despite their problems they possessed great joy as they anticipated receiving final salvation – a salvation that had been the focus of the message of the Old Testament prophets – when the time of their exile would be over. Peter was aware that the current attitude of his readers could change, that their priorities could shift, the longer they lived away from their homeland. Therefore he proceeds to explain to them how they should continue in the Christian life. One important aspect was how the used their minds.
We can easily see the importance of how we think from Peter’s twofold reference to the mind in verse 13. He wants his readers to prepare their minds for action and to be sober-minded. The importance of the mind is stressed in the illustration that Peter uses when he tells them, literally, to gird up the loins of their minds. In the ancient world, an individual, because of the kinds of clothes that were worn, had to gird them up with a belt so that he could walk or run. Peter says that each Christian has to think in such a way that he will not be hindered from right activities – this is to be his ongoing resolve. Of course, the illustration also reminds us that we are on a journey, and in order to reach that destination we have to think correctly at all times.
The right way of thinking that Peter exhorts is ‘sober-mindedness’. We all know that drunkenness prevents rational thinking whereas sobriety enables it. Another way by which our minds can be distracted is by having too many things to think about. No doubt, some of us are thinking about where we will go for our summer holidays. We can approach the destination in three ways: first, we can chooses so many options and think about each of them and end up not knowing where to go; second, we can choose a destination and not think about it, with the result that we make no adequate preparations; third, we know our destination, we read all we can about it, and we make suitable preparations for the journey. The third option is the realistic one. In a far higher sense, a Christian has to think continually about his destination and, since it is the priority in his life, he has to always check that he is making the right preparation. Thinking about the destination is Peter’s requirement in verse 13 and thinking about the preparation is his requirement in verses 14 -21.
Peter is not unique among New Testament writers concerning the importance of thinking correctly. We can consider the example of Paul. First, there is Paul’s urging of the Philippians to have the humble mind of Christ in their relationships with one another (Phil. 2:5). Second, there is Paul’s desire for the Colossians to set their minds on the things that are above (Col. 3:2). Third, there is his description of the ungodly as those who mind earthly things (Phil. 3:19). Fourth, there is his call to the Christians in Rome to have transformed minds, and such renewed minds will think in a balanced way about their own spiritual gifts and also the capability of others (Rom. 12:1-3).
So we can see how important a proper use of the mind is. We need to remind ourselves of this requirement because often we base our responses or intentions on our feelings or on our impulses. But it is through the proper use of the mind that we can live as Christians, that we can assess where we are and where we are going.