Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Difference Between Judas and Simon Peter

"Would I ever leave this company? Look: I'm all about loyalty. In fact, I feel like part of what I'm being paid for here is my loyalty. But if there were somewhere else that valued loyalty more highly, I'm going wherever they value loyalty the most."

- Dwight Schrute

I just started reading a fun little book by James Carville called Stickin': The Case For Loyalty. I'm not always a fan of his politics, but I love James Carville. He's just so blunt & witty. In the book, he explains why he stuck with Bill Clinton through the whole mess with the Monica Lewinsky affair, even though it would have been EMINENTLY more politically & professionally expedient for him to throw the President under the bus. And he explains what would make him pack his bags & leave someone he had been loyal to: someone who would leave their wife & abandon their kids is at the top of the list. Basically, if anyone demonstrates that they are more loyal to money, power, or convenience than they are to their fellow man, Carville ain't stickin' with you.

Its got me to thinking about stickin'. So there may be a few more thoughts like these coming over the next few weeks...

I was at a Bible Study last week where the leader (a more-or-less irregular reader of this blog) was talking about the difference between Peter and Judas. He took the position that what Judas did in selling out Jesus was much worse than what Peter did in denying Jesus. I just don't see it that way. What Judas did was BAD -- low-down, dirty-snitch bad -- but what Peter did was inexcusable, too.

Bottom line: Peter was ashamed of Jesus. Ashamed enough that he didn't stick by Him when the heat was turned up. He saw the ship sinking, and he didn't want any part of drowning. When his faithfulness was tried, Simon Peter was a deserting, disloyal disciple.

Here's where the difference comes between Judas and Simon Peter...

Judas GAVE up, and Peter GOT up.

Judas selfishly took his own life. He couldn't deal with his shame. He couldn't run far enough way to escape the dastardly deed he had done. And so he went to the one place he could go where he wouldn't have to deal with the guilt: suicide. Judas gave up.

But Peter got up. Sure, there was a little intervention from Jesus to bring him back. But Peter faced the shame face-to-face over breakfast -- he didn't run away & hide from it like Judas did. He allowed Jesus to pick him back up, dust him off, and use him again. And its just a couple chapters later that its the Day of Pentecost, and who is it but SIMON PETER preaching the first Gospel sermon.

When it comes to our Heavenly Father, stickin' means getting back up off the mat. None of us are perfect. It'd be great if there was something magical about those baptismal waters -- something mystical that burned away all our sinful & transgressing inclinations. But there isn't. And so faithfulness to God -- loyalty to His name & Kingdom -- I believe will be judged in part by those who choose to get up instead of give up. As did Moses, who finally chose to lead God's people instead of wallow in his guilt for another 40 years. As did David when Nathan confronted him. As did Peter a number of times in the Gospels, and even once in Galatians. Not even "Limited Edition 1st Century Holy Spirit Power" could keep Peter from screwing something up!

Stickin' with God means facing the music. It means not running away & hiding from whatever it is that is shameful that we've done. God can't do anything with that. God wants folks who won't give up on Him and who won't give up on themselves. We may not be as far along spiritually as we oughta be -- we may not even be as far along as we WANNA be. But even though Satan comes up & roughs us up from time to time, and even though its shameful to face the aftermath, stickin' is staying on that straight & narrow road even when it would be more convenient to find some other path to walk on.

Judas gave up. But Peter got up. And that made all the difference.

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