Sometimes I drive myself nuts. I can be my own worst enemy. Seriously. I mean, after 47-plus years of life on planet earth, you’d think that I would know myself well enough to head my behavior off at the pass, so to speak. That is, so many times I do or say things I know are fundamentally wrong, knowing they were wrong well in advance. There are even times when I committed to myself that I wouldn’t do something … and I do it nonetheless. How can my commitment and will power be so frail?
One of the most frustrating things of living life as a Christian … and I guess as a human … is the inability to exercise self-control. I’m not trying to provide us all an excuse for our bad decisions or behavior. I’m just trying to point out something that swirled in my head as I read a familiar passage during my weekly reading. I covered Matthew 25 – 28, and a section of Matthew 26 made an impact. Verses 31 through 35 say …
On the way, Jesus told them, “Tonight all of you will desert me. For the Scriptures say, ‘God will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I have been raised from the dead, I will go ahead of you to Galilee and meet you there.” Peter declared, “Even if everyone else deserts you, I will never desert you.” Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, Peter—this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.” “No!” Peter insisted. “Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you!” And all the other disciples vowed the same.
In this passage, Jesus and his 12 closest friends / followers had just finished the last supper and were on their way to the Mount of Olives and Gethsemane where Jesus ultimately turned himself over to the Roman authorities. Jesus had just shared communion with the disciples (I’m not sure if they realized it was communion or not … haha) and told them of his impending betrayal. This is where we find the discussion as He tells them, “all of you will desert me.”
Now, it’s obviously easy to be a biblical Monday morning quarterback, but let’s have a look at Peter’s response. “I will never desert you.” I have to say, I find it a wee bit funny that Peter’s saying this to Jesus … the Messiah … the Word incarnate … God. After all this time, did it not strike Peter (or any of the other disciples … note they vowed the same, that even if they had to die, they would never deny Him) that Jesus would know what was going to happen? Hadn’t he and all the disciples personally seen Jesus perform miracles, prophecy about days to come, etc.? Didn’t they get it by then that He was the very Son of God? Anyhow …
You probably know that Peter, and the rest of the disciples, outright did indeed betray and abandon Jesus. They ran for the hills, with Peter famously betraying Jesus three times by denying he didn’t know Jesus. Just like Jesus said. But my goal here is not to assassinate the character of the disciples. In fact, my goal is to show how our character is not unlike their character … and how notwithstanding their character and ours, we are still loved by Jesus, who died for them and us knowing full well the frailties of our character.
I think if I were Peter, I would have said the same thing. I would have stood up and pounded my chest in pride knowing, not believing but knowing, that I would never have denied Jesus, let alone three times in one night. And then I … just like Peter … probably would have blown it. How do I know that? Because I do it all the time. I have the best of intentions, but I can be my own worst enemy. I commit to having patience with my wife … and blow it time and again. I am certain I’m going to behave more like a Christian with people I drive next to on the freeway, and still portray an embarrassingly bad attitude far too often. I promise to be a better steward of the finances God’s entrusted to us, and I spend frivolously and lazily toss my discipline out the door time and time again. In each case, and in others, I am just as certain and confident about how good I’m going to be … right up until the time I’m not, again and again.
The bottom line … we all know we’re not going to sin again, and we do. We all know we’re going to do better, and we don’t. It’s not that we don’t make progress, and with the Holy Spirit’s help we do. But our broken, sinful tendencies still rear their ugly little heads with regularity and predictability. We all mess up, and we mess up often, despite our best intentions and our best efforts. We get in our own way all too often.
But here’s the encouragement. Just like Jesus knew that Peter and the rest of the disciples were going to abandon Him, Jesus knows that we’re going to blow it from time to time. And even though He knew Peter and the others were going to turn their backs on Him and run, note that He didn’t turn His back on them. He affirmed what He knew was true, that the ones closest to Him would bail on Him. They did. And what did He do? He loved them. And us. Enough to die for them. And us. When He was on the cross, He was thinking of them. And us.
Here’s the thing. As long as we’re breathing, we have the propensity to blow it. In fact, more than the propensity … we’ll blow it more often than not, and more often than we intend, even with the best of intensions. Should we blow it? No. We, like Peter ultimately did, should weep bitterly at the prospect of betraying our Savior in such a way. We should do our utmost to shelve our desires and selfishness, surrendering our desires and will to His. We should recognize that the way God wants us to live is not only the more obedient and holy way, but for our best as well. In no way do I intend to excuse our behaviors when we deviate from God’s way … His way is right, ours is wrong. But, when (not if) we fall short, let’s recognize that Jesus knew we would and He willingly went to the cross knowing it.
Peter denied Jesus three times after Jesus warned him that he would … and then Peter went on to serve the cause of Christ in powerful ways. Let’s ask God in prayer this week to reveal places where perhaps we have blind spots, where we may blow it, and let’s ask Him to help us rely on Him to stay away from those places. But when we inevitably fail, let’s ask Him to remind us that that too was something for which He died on our behalf, that He loves us, and that we’re still a work in process. Let’s not make excuses, but let’s realize that we’re slowly being fashioned in a way that God intends and if we happen to slip up once in a while, He’s already aware of it and already forgiven for it. But just like Peter didn’t likely deny Jesus again, let’s also leave behind those poor choices not to be repeated again.
He forgave us, let’s forgive us too. And move on … and closer to Him. He is our best friend, even if sometimes we’re our worst enemy.