You gotta love the King James Bible. Nobody can say it quite like the Old English. In my Bible study we have been reading a commentary on 1 and 2 Peter in which each chapter contains a section of Scripture written in the New King James version. This past week we talked about 1 Peter 1:13, which reads as follows: “Therefore gird up the loins of your mind…”
As soon as I read this phrase aloud, some of the girls in the group definitely giggled. Gird up your loins? Who even knows what that means? If anything, it sounds like the kind of sketchy thing that Christians *shouldn’t* be doing…not something we should actively pursue. If it’s all the same to you, I think I’ll keep my loins firmly girded.
It’s at times like these that we notice one of the difficulties of reading the KJV–its language doesn’t exactly relate to our present context. Translations like the NIV, which simply read, “Therefore, prepare your minds for action,” are much more accessible and easy to comprehend.
However, while the KJV is not always the best translation to study for a variety of reasons, in this particular case, the rendering of “gird up your loins” is actually superior to the modern translations we have today. The KJV gives us an important image of ancient Greek military attire that is lost in the translation “prepare for action.” There is much more to what Peter was saying than the NIV translation leads us to believe.
To begin, the phrase “gird up your loins” refers to the act of tucking in one’s tunic just prior to battle so as to facilitate movement. You didn’t want your tunic slowing you down or causing you to trip, so you had to “gird up your loins,” tuck in your robe, so as to be optimally prepared and agile for battle. That is what it means to “gird up your loins.”
But Peter takes this image a little further. In 1 Peter 1:13 we are told to gird up the loins of “our minds.” So within the context of this miliatry imagery, what on earth are the loins of my mind, and how the heck do I gird them?
What I think Peter is referring to is the nature of your thought life, but let me explain how I came to this conclusion. To begin, a soldier’s tunic was a helpful part of his armor in that it served a basic purpose, namely, to keep you from being naked.
However, there are times when this tunic could get in the way. Though the tunic is not, itself, a bad thing, it could be a hindrance once you entered battle. You could trip on it or it could get caught on something. It could hold you back in a variety of ways. For this reason, while the tunic can be helpful at times, it was an expendable part of the armor that needed to be reigned in if necessary.
Similarly, a person’s thought life can be very helpful at times. You might be thinking about how to run your errands efficiently, or about the people that you need to e-mail during the day. Our days are filled with this kind of day dreaming, so just because a thought is not centered on Christ does not mean it is inherently sinful. BUT, there is a time when we need to put these thoughts away, because, like the tunic, they can also trip us up when it is time for battle.
I think that’s what Peter is getting at here–girding up the loins of your mind means disciplining your thought life. No, not all the thoughts you have are bad, but they are not preparing you for battle either. And since we live in a world of powers and principalities with which we are constantly at war, this is no small point. Our thought life may seem harmless now, but if we are not in the habit of disciplining our thoughts and focusing our minds on Christ, then we will be unequipped to do so when we really need to. During those times when anger, bitterness, hate or lust try to dominate your thought life, you will not be ready to redirect your mind onto Christ if you were not even able to do so in the face of harmless day dreamining.
So in light of this instruction to “gird up the loins of your mind,” I encourage you to find a way to discipline your thought life. When you’re in the car and your mind starts to wander, work on memorizing Scripture or listen to sermons. When you’re walking to class, talk to God instead of talking to yourself. These are very simple disciplines but they will prepare our minds for battle when the time comes. Yes, girding up your loins sounds incredibly socially awkward, but it’s actually pretty cool when you think about it, and more importantly, it’s what we as warriors are called to do.