I could not deny it. I had gossiped about someone to a friend. Lying in bed that night, I thought about the incident and rationalized: the circumstances, what I said, and to whom probably won’t matter. But continuing to deny the undeniable absolutely would, because God knew, and so did I.
When tempted, I often snap at the bait. I tell “clever stories,” tales that turn people into villains, exaggerate my innocence, and portray myself as the helpless victim. Now I was being tested. Would I deny the undeniable?
During Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, we reflect on Peter, not his good work but on his fear and denial, as Jesus predicted. Jesus replied, “Will you lay down your life for Me? Truly, truly I say to you, a rooster will not crow until you deny Me three times. John 13:38 NASB
In his Good Friday sermon, Rev. James E. Laurence wrote: “…I think that there is something of Peter in each of us. We all, in our dark moments, can deny Jesus. We all, in our bright moments, can do things worthy of imitation. We are all saints and sinners, at the same time, as Martin Luther taught us. And Peter’s life and witness teach us that truth.”
In our Tuesday morning Bible study, which I’ve written about here and here, and in church Bible studies, we examined Jesus’ reconciliation with Peter in John 21:15-19. This is the passage where the risen Lord asks Peter three times, “Do you love me?” The focus of our studies was on the word “love,” which can mean agape (God’s love), phileo (friendship), eros (romantic love), or storge (familial love), among other things.
The first two times, Jesus asks, “Do you agape me?” and Peter answers, “Yes, I phileo you.” But the third time Jesus asks, he meets Peter where he is and uses the word phileo. He knows that Peter, perhaps out of guilty, cannot enter into an agape relationship with the Lord yet. But Jesus also knows Peter can and will grow in that direction. Rev Laurence: “Jesus did not go to the cross to condemn Peter, or to condemn anyone who denies him. He went to the cross to forgive Peter, and to forgive all who deny him. And to invite us back into a reconciled relationship with him.”
As I lay in bed, I asked the Lord for reconciliation and grace. Then I asked myself, do I love my friend? Yes. Do I need to make amends and set a better example? Yes. So, the next day when I saw her, I said, “I owe you an apology. Yesterday, I gossiped. I do that sometimes, and it’s a flaw. Please forgive me.”
And, thanks be to God, she did.
Will I be able to avoid the temptation of gossip and steer clear of rationalizing when tested? Not in this life. What was true of Peter is true for us all. So, what sustains us in our journey toward agape love? Pastor asked yesterday in Bible study. Reading the Word, staying in fellowship with others, listening to the message in church.
Maturing in faith over time. Love’s redeeming work. Undeniable agape.
Link up with Five Minute Friday: https://fiveminutefriday.com/2022/04/14/fmf-writing-prompt-link-up-deny/