Summary: We’ve been learning about how to live in a nonChristian world. Our present text instructs us on how to live in a Christian community. Peter denotes both the activities and the attitude necessary for Christian community that glorifies God.
We’ve been learning about how to live in a nonChristian world. Our present text instructs us on how to live in a Christian community. Peter denotes both the activities and the attitude necessary for Christian community that glorifies God.
The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray.
The verb tense in the Greek indicates that the end has already come near. The end is nearby, ready to take place at God’s word. We’ve noted before that all of Christ’s acts have been completed save his return. He has been incarnated; he has made atonement for sin; he has risen from the dead, and he has ascended into heaven. Furthermore he has sent the Holy Spirit as he promised. One act is left. It may be tomorrow; it may be several more millennia away; it may be today; whatever the case, the end of this earthly age is ready to take place. Therefore, Christians ought always to be ready for that time.
What does it mean to be ready? We should be ready in the sense that we are not caught in sin. When Christ returns, we ought to be found morally prepared. This is the context Peter had in mind back in 1:13-16. Be alert, living holy lives. In this passage, however, his concern is that we be alert in prayer. Be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray.
Peter only speaks of prayer twice and almost as a passing comment each time. He doesn’t teach how to pray or elaborate on its value, and, yet, he seems to share unconsciously with his readers a high regard for its importance. What is the warning he gives to husbands who don’t treat their wives properly? It is that their prayers will be hindered (3:7). Peter apparently thought he was giving the men something to worry about. Here, now, he commands his readers to be clear headed so they can pray effectively. Prayer, at least the prayer Peter has in mind, is for those who remain calm in the midst of turbulence. It’s as though the Christians are to wield prayer like a weapon or tool. It’s not for the careless or befuddled.
A scene in the movie The Titanic illustrates well the world’s different take on prayer. The ship is about to split in two, causing the ends of the ship to rise sharply. Leonardo DiCaprio, keeping his wits about him, leads Rose to the stern to avoid sliding into certain death. He passes a priest praying and reading scripture to a small band of people, who, of course, slide to their death. Prayer, as the world knows, is for people who feel helpless and can’t figure out what to do anymore.
Actually, we Christians have to agree with this view to a certain extent. We do pray because we have more faith in God than in ourselves, and I hope that I would have been in that band of pray-ers. But Peter here is speaking of prayer that will help Christians accomplish what they are called to do. The end is near. This is not a warning of judgment for the Christians. Remember the context. The Christians are getting put down by their nonChristian neighbors. Peter tells them not to worry about it. They are under God’s protection. But they do need to worry about their neighbors’ status before God. Their neighbors are lost and the end is near. Be alert; now is the time for serious spiritual warfare.
Get to work and pray! Pray for your neighbors that God will change their hearts. Pray for yourselves that you will be bold, wise, and loving in your witness. We need to pray if we have any chance of carrying out the mandate to bless those who insult us. We need to pray if we are going to submit to officials and supervisors who abuse their power. These are the things that our King calls us to do that we may extend his kingdom against the kingdom of Satan. And prayer is vital to the cause.
Now, if prayer is essential to Christians living out their callings, equally important is the bond we maintain together. For us to face the world, we must be able to embrace one another. We could have easily passed over Peter’s emphasis on prayer, but we cannot miss his emphasis on love within the Christian family. Above all, love each other deeply…
Remember how he threw us off balance back in chapter one? In verses 13ff, he lectured on the importance of living holy lives, impressing upon his readers to fear God in light of how Christ had redeemed them with his precious blood. He then continued in verse 22: Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that… (and it seems he should have said) “you may be holy.” Instead, he said, you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart.