Things have come a long way since Atari. In 2012, a 23-year-old man collapsed in an internet café in Taiwan while playing video games. The other gamers were too engrossed in their online fantasy worlds to notice. His death went unnoticed for 10 hours.
The opposite of certainty isn’t doubt; it’s fantasy. The human mind seems uniquely wired to find meaning amidst shattered pieces. In Douglas Coupland’s novel Generation X, one of the characters laments that “either our lives become stories, or there’s just no way to get through them.” But—as our gamer friend teaches us—if we live for the wrong story, we may find ourselves as dead men.
Peter begins his letter with a magnificent description of the hope of the gospel. He then draws an application:
13 Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:13-16)
You caught his “therefore?” The word connects Peter’s thoughts: we have hope, Peter is saying, so let’s live like it. Look at his three commands:
- Preparing your minds for action
- Being sober-minded
- Set your hope fully on the grace
Peter’s call is a turn away from the fantasy world of idols and toward the certainty of God’s master story. Peter is deeply concerned for men and women who would be “conformed to the passions of your former ignorance.”
Maybe for you, video games present no temptation. But there’s a very real chance that you and I can find ourselves being “conformed” to our “passions.” For some it’s sports; for others it’s career. Maybe for you it’s the mere approval of others.
Go back and take a look at Peter’s three earlier commands: “preparing minds…being sober-minded…set your hope…” So much of our spiritual trajectory begins in the mind and extends outward into life.
Yet it isn’t until verse 15 that Peter actually issues his command: “be holy.” Biblically speaking, the word meant to be “set apart.” It’s the polar opposite of being “conformed.” You can conform to society, Peter is saying, or you can be holy. You cannot be both.
That sounds easy, doesn’t it? Until you consider that conformity also meant comfort. Holiness would mean being misunderstood, socially rejected, or worse.
But Peter says that the call toward holiness is a reflection of God’s character. The consummate shepherd, Peter pulls from the pages of scripture: “You shall be holy, as I am holy” (Leviticus 20:26). Orthodoxy leads to orthopraxy—that is, what you think about God changes how you live. Think about it: could it be that your exhaustion stems from a misunderstanding of God’s character? For instance, the story you might be living might be one of the following:
- “You shall keep busy, as the Lord your God expects perfection.” If God demands your performance, then you might find yourself in a whirlwind trying to keep everything together to avoid incurring God’s anger.
- “You shall stay under the radar, as the Lord your God is a harsh judge.” Alternately, if God is ready to blast you for your failure, you might find yourself withdrawing from spiritual practices because, let’s face it, who wants to pray when they feel like they’ve let God down? Ironically a judgmental God might not promote ethical behavior, but for us to hide in fear.
- “You shall be open-minded, as the Lord your God is tolerant.” On the surface, an open mind seems a welcome alternative to the judgment we often associate with Christians. But think harder: if we value justice, if we value wrongs set right, does this not demand ethical standards and judgment? Tolerance that leads to complacency does not promote the flourishing of virtue, but can inhibit it.
No; Peter isn’t saying any of that. Peter is saying: “be holy,” because this reflects God’s character. He’s saying there’s more to life than video games, sports, relationships, or the countless other idols to which we might “conform.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said that “the arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice.” What does your story “bend toward?” Toward holiness? Toward God’s kingdom? Or to the world of your own fantasy—of your own comfort?
The things that captivate our attention don’t always reflect God’s master plan for the world. They may, in fact, be a fantasy world that has ensnared us. They are but shadows cast by a greater light. We have but to shed our chains and turn from the flickering images to see Reality in all its splendor. When we do, everything changes. We conform not to our fantasies, but to the image of a God who loves us, who cares for us, and who romances us to be set apart in the same holy manner as he.
 “’League of Legends’ Gamer Dies In Taiwan, Corpse Goes Unnoticed For Hours In Internet Café,” Huffington Post, February 3, 2012, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/03/taiwan-internet-cafe-corpse-gamer-died-dead_n_1252766.html
 Douglas Coupland, Generation X: Tales of an Accelerated Culture.