Peter, I confess: I’ve come to identify with you in a deeper way, with your denial of knowing Jesus. Of course we all can casually agree that we’ve denied Christ in some form or fashion, but this is different. I am humbled and embarassed by how similar I am to you. Not that I am condemned by this, but His light has revealed this darkness; the dross is surfacing, ready to be skimmed.
Peter was a disciple of Jesus, a friend. They were always together—traveling, eating, talking—along with the other disciples. I gather that most of the time he was surrounded by fellow believers, like-minded individuals. And when Jesus told Peter that he would deny Him, how could he not be offended?
When Jesus was arrested and taken away, Peter followed and waited outside while Jesus appeared before the high priest. This is when it happened: “Are you not one of his disciples? I thought I saw you with him?” Nope, not me, said Peter. He was no longer surrounded by his believing friends, by throngs of people wanting to touch the robe of Jesus or hear His words. Peter was outnumbered, a spiritual minority at last, and he backed down. He couldn’t own his identity as a follower of Christ, because what would they think? What would they do? Accuse him too?
And so the rooster crowed, Jesus’ prophecy now manifest and tangible, and Peter left and wept bitterly, having denied his Lord, failing his teacher and friend. The One who loved and served him, who washed his feet. The One who chose him to be His disciple. This One Peter betrayed just to save face.
It’s easy to procliam my love for Jesus at church, easy to esteem the commandments of the Lord at home with my family. It’s easy to glorify God in conversation with a fellow sister in Christ. But once I step outside these bounds, into “the world,” the rubber meets the road, and I’m likely to trip and fall flat on my face. I’m likely to smooth the edges and blur the lines so I don’t stand out so much. I want to be light, but not so bright it blinds. I want to be strong, but not so much it breaks. I want to be salt, but not so much it burns. However, this is not how God designed it. I cannot blend in with the world and with the church.
I am a people pleaser, and perhaps Peter was too. I want to be liked by everyone, and I care a lot what people think about me. But do I care more about what people think than what God thinks? Most of the time, yes. There is a cost to discipleship: taking up my cross, denying myself, being willing to forsake all, even relationships/friendships/family and what others think of me. This is not an easy thing, for broad is the road that leads to destruction, but narrow is the gate that leads to life.
So let us lay down our pride; our desire to be liked at work, or school, or on social media; our hopes to somehow please the Lord and the world at the same time. We must remember the words of our Lord, etch them on the palms of our hands: “If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world—but I chose you out of the world—because of this the world hates you.” (John 15:19)