The context is considerable. These words were spoken in the middle of a military empire. They were delivered to a people who were disciplined in the use of weapons as a way of life. It must have been startling then to hear these words from Peter. It was the promise of a new kind of armor; a new type of defense. It must have caught them off guard and left them flatfooted. Then they must have laughed. There was nothing tangible to it. It wasn’t tall and skinny, short and fat, lightweight or heavy. It couldn’t cause the first wound on the most elementary enemy. It was, in fact, a wound itself.
“Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind. . .” Now, as believers we can naturally understand that we are normally called to a condition of sacrifice. But isn’t that, by its very nature, a call to lay down your arms? You see, the unique nature of Peter’s proclamation isn’t that we are called to have the mind of Christ, but that the mind of Christ is itself a type of tactical defense.
We commonly think of sacrifice being a Christian virtue, but how many times do we stop to see it as a suit of armor? Sacrifice is normally seen as yielding; it is seldom seen as resisting. And yet, this is exactly the truth that Peter teaches. There is no power so powerful to resist daily danger like the sacrificial strength of love. Peter had seen this demonstrated and even experienced it personally in his own life. Whenever he began to go under it was because of what was deep down in his own heart. He raced out to greet a storm one morning that had terrified him in the night. What was the difference? Was it a difference in degree or intensity? No, the difference was found in the direction of his affection and attention. When he turned from Jesus and looked at the wind and the waves, or even himself, he began to sink. But when he clung to his “life-jacket,” the Lord Jesus, and was willing to sacrifice himself because of this great love, he had no trouble with the terrible storm.
A word of caution for those who would rush out to sacrifice themselves – this armor can not be put on through grief. It can only be put on through joy. To be sure, there is a sacrifice which comes from great grief, but it is no armor. Many have sought to abandon this world because disappointment, but the world followed them to their place of abandonment. The armor of sacrifice then must come from gladness, the greatest joy of the human heart – love. Thus, this armor is a breastplate of love.
Seeking to save yourself will not do so. Trying to protect yourself from sickness may be successful for a while, but it will not ultimately be so. You may dodge the dreaded public opinion for a day, but not for a lifetime. These weapons eventually wear out. If you want to have a way to guard against temptation, then set your thoughts higher, lift your soul upward. Think of it in the secret place, speak of it in the silence. Dream of it during the night, but most of all live it out where you live. Then realize who it is – it is Christ in you.
Nothing in this life can crucify the desires of the flesh like the joy of the spirit.
“Jesus help me to live a life of sacrifice. Help me to realize that the only way to save my life is to loose it. Give me the strength to fight off the cares and concerns of this world, the daily desires that would draw me away, through the strength and example of your sacrificial love.” Amen.