I feel a kinship with Peter. He was a man with a passionate heart, an impetuousness that led him to say the wrong thing and ask the foolish question more often than not. I do that. I think I know what’s right, and I blurt it out. If I were in Jesus’ band of followers I’d be right with Peter, saying, “You are the Messiah, the Son of God!” “Don’t go to Jerusalem; they’ll kill you and we need you!” “Are you crazy? You’re the Master here, you’ll never wash my feet!” “I will never betray you!”
There’s one big difference, though. Peter betrayed Jesus spectacularly. At a single, crucial moment he was overcome by fear. Afterwards he repented and turned his life upside down for the sake of the Master he loved. He was still the same impetuous guy, and he often made the wrong decisions, but he was devoted entirely to speaking the truth of the Gospel, to everyone, no matter what the risk.
My betrayals are small, but they are endless, part of the fabric of my everyday life. Any time I choose safety over compassion, any time I fail to speak up when I see injustice, and any time I fail to meet the eyes of the stranger, I am betraying Jesus. When I buy the new, convenient gadget even when I have other ways of getting the job done, when I leave my car running because having the heat or the air conditioning is more important in that moment than the quality of the air, or when I go ahead and buy the sneakers I know were produced by slave labor, that’s a betrayal of the Gospel. Even more importantly, when I slip easily along through the world because of my white privilege, getting the loan I need, the fancy house, the support of law enforcement officers and government agencies, and allow myself to just accept that as the way things are, that’s betraying Jesus.
When Peter betrayed Jesus it was because he was choosing safety over allegiance to the living God, the ruler of his heart. That’s me, too. My society says it is foolish in the extreme to relinquish the security and wealth that privilege can bring – and too often I believe this.
But, at the end of the day, what does safety really get me? One way or another, we are all going to lose everything we have accumulated in this life, no matter how hard we try to hang on to it. Living the Gospel, on the other hand, brings a different kind of security, a security that cannot be lost.
Three times Peter betrayed Jesus. He was scared witless. How many times do I betray Christ, and with far less of a reason!
Today I pray for boldness. I pray to be foolish. I pray to live out the ministry God dreams for me. I pray the same for you.
Laurie Gudim is an iconographer and writer living in Fort Collins, Colorado.