Monday, March 17, 2014


In my daughter's journaling notebook is a section where she's supposed to list all the commands she can find in a particular chapter.  This is a more revealing exercise than you might think.  For example, when's the last time you considered God's command to be sober?

This is not the fact that God disapproves of drunkenness (he made that plain starting with Noah-Genesis 9 and working down through 1 Peter itself-1 Peter 4:1-6). Rather God commands us in 1 Peter, 3 times in fact, to be sober.  See what I mean? Who would have thought God would have bothered with an entire command against being empty-headed silly twits*?

Context is king here. A closer look at Peter's words reveals why he urges the reader to soberness.

Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).
Roaring Lion Travis Jervey
 Just imagine you're walking through the savannah.  You hear a lion roar.  So you stretch out on a nice rock for a bit of sunbathing.  No...Let's try again.  You grab your iPhone and start getting shots for Instagram.  No?  Of course, you're a smart person, right? You'd never walk through lion country without gear, a guide and a big gun!  

The devil, a roaring lion, is looking for a Christian snack.  If we relax, if we're distracted, silly or shallow, we're up next on the menu. Wake up, Peter says.  Heads up!  Be sober.

Protecting ourselves isn't the only reason Peter urges us to sobriety though.  He also says this: 

The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer (1 Peter 4:7).
In the larger context, Peter is talking about resisting sin (armed with the attitude of the suffering sinless Christ) and about the strange looks we'll get from our former compatriots when we refuse to run after the frivolous and sinful ways of our previous lives (1 Peter 4:1-6). It's in view of the coming judgment, he points out, that we need to pray.

I was confused at first.  The first connection - the devil's roaring about so keep your head up - that was easy.  But why does Peter say that since judgment is coming we need a sober mind so we can pray?

We're still in the midst of danger.  Temptation to follow our old friends (or our current ones!) in "sensuality, lusts, drunkenness" etc. entices us everyday.  It's on TV.  It's at the supermarket, at a birthday party, at work, and at the bar where the boss wants to meet at 6.  It's in the jokes we hear or is it the jokes we tell? It's in our books, our magazines, and the songs we sing along to. If we are the least bit silly, the tiniest bit foolish, we'll fall right back into our old, comfortable ways. So what can we do?  Peter doesn't think a sober attitude alone will save us. We need to start with the words of Jesus and pray, "And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil" (Matthew 6:13).

Before we accuse God of being a drag, a party-pooper, of requiring unnecessary solemnness from his children, think about this.  No father can abide the thought of his children waltzing carelessly into danger!  God loves us and wants to protect us.  And that means telling us to wake up, keep our heads about us, watch where we're going and sober-mindedly beg for his help.  The narrow road is no place for fools.

*If you're curious about the uses of the 2 Greek words translated "sober" or "sober-minded" variously in the New Testament (I certainly was), I'd like to point you to these enlightening articles at and  If on the other hand you're just wondering if a more literal meaning of "not drunken" is appropriate, I think a reading of the verses in context makes the figurative meaning plain


Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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