Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Betrayal and Denial

"The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: 'Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.' And he went out and wept bitterly." Luke 22:61-62

I remember a time in my life that I did not want to be associated with my own family. I was a young teenager and several times tried to deny that I was related to my siblings or my parents. People would come up to me on the street and I would tell them they were mistaken as to who I was. It's funny now, because we look so much alike and we have similar mannerisms, and characteristics. But there is a time in every person's life that we need to pretend that we are not with the folks we came with, we are not part of the clan and people that have shaped us. Some of us have come from difficult situations and it makes the denial easier and the return harder, if not impossible. For some of us, we have grown beyond our denial, but not to a place of integration and appreciation. We sometimes betray the good we have received and the people who have loved us well, by insisting fiercely on our independence and lack of need for others. In our isolation we often try to justify our past betrayals and denials. To grow in faith, we still must take the step of accepting our need of God and one another, and recognizing the fractures that our denials and betrayals have caused.

What can we say about Peter? In his bumbling humanity he is all of us. In his honesty and transparency, he becomes the one whom Christ chooses to lead the church. Peter is broken, and human, ruled too often by fear. Like all of us. But Peter also knows Christ's love to be bigger than his own foolishness, his own need to push others away, and the political games he so enjoys. Peter has witnessed love braking barriers and breaking through cold, cruel hearts -including his own.

I know there are plenty of places and relationships in my life that still need Christ's healing. When "the Lord turns and looks straight" at us, we can't help but be reminded of all the broken places, all the denials and betrayals in our lives. But the promise of the Incarnation, the birth of Christ in the world, is the promise of a love which can break through our isolation and denial, our pride and our shame - a love which knows our need to deny and embraces us beyond our brokenness. May we all live today, aware of the broken shards of our hearts, firmly expecting a Savior who can bear it all, and who will transform our shallow independence into a deep river of love for the world.

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