There is a long list, but here’s one example. During our Sunday morning worship service, we take a few minutes to say hello to each other. We call it “Meet & Greet.” This is a good time to welcome new folks. One time, we had a family visiting with us, and I walked over to say hello. I was following one of our regular church members, Raymond, with whom I often like to joke around. He introduced himself to the family and told the dad that he had a beautiful little girl. I heard this, but I already had in mind to crack a joke and couldn’t stop myself. So, I said to the dad, “Don’t believe anything Raymond says!” It’s a disease.
This is probably why I like Peter so much. I can relate to his frequent lapses in judgement. Peter and I know what it is like to shiver at the thought of our past mistakes. We know what it’s like to wish we could have that moment back, to stop those words from coming out of our mouth, to make a much better decision. I think that’s how Peter felt when Jesus told him and the other disciples about what God had in mind for His future. Yes, if Peter had compiled an all-time greatest hits for his foolishness, Mark 8:30-33 would be on there. After Jesus explained to his disciples that He would suffer and die, Peter opened his mouth and inserted his foot. He did not take a moment to contemplate Jesus’ statement, nor did he ask any questions, he just reacted. What did he do? “...Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.” (Mark 8:32). Yup, that’s right. Peter reprimanded, reproached, scolded, admonished, reproved, chastised...God in the flesh. And you think you’ve got a bad case of Foot-In-The-Mouth!
And that’s not the worst part! The worst part, the most painful part, had to be Jesus’ response to Peter’s foolish words. Jesus says to him, “Get behind me, Satan! You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” (Mark 8:33). WOW! Jesus tells Peter and the rest of the disciples that they are playing on the enemy’s team! Ouch! How in the world could Peter recover from that? How do you stop that moment from defining your entire life?
You may not believe this, but if Peter could have a mulligan on anything he had ever said or done, this probably would not be it. If he could delete anything from his past, I’d bet he’d skip over this embarrassing episode and delete the time (or the three times) when he denied even knowing Jesus for fear of his life. Hearing that rooster crow has got to be the lowest point in Peter’s life. By the way, if you don’t know the story I’d encourage you to read it. It is riveting! Here’s where you’ll find it: John 13:33-38; 18:15-18,25-27.
How is it humanly possible to keep these kinds of failures from defining one’s future? How could Peter find the strength to overcome such excruciating mistakes? At the end of the Gospel of John, Jesus asks Peter three times if Peter loved Him (John 21:15-17). Peter said yes three times. Three times Jesus told Peter to feed His lambs. What does that mean? It means that even though Peter found himself on Satan’s side, he was still invited to be on Jesus’ team.
I bet there are some things in your life, like me and Peter, that you’d just love to delete. If you trust in Jesus then it is already deleted, forgiven. Your past does not have to define you, but it can refine you. Yes, even though we’ve done some freelance work for enemy’s team, Jesus still invites us to be on His.