We try to make friends with people who are like us. This is a dangerous business, as it can worsen our own problems, since our friendships often serve to justify within ourselves the issues for which we are not proud. “He does this too, so it can’t be that bad…right?” When our friends are like us, they don’t judge us for being who we are. So far, so good? Right or wrong, this is our leaning.
That is why the Apostle Peter is my best friend. Well, at least my best friend in the Scriptures. David is a very close second, but Peter has to win. He is so much like me. I smile and have to hold back laughter as I read about the things he did. I can’t believe it. I can’t believe someone wrote this stuff down.
Peter was a well-to-do fisherman. He was a man’s man, if you know what I mean. He cursed, lost his temper, and got in a fight now and then. Oh, how that draws me in. He is the guy with whom you want to watch a football game. He is the guy you see on television, standing up and screaming at the ref. He is the guy spilling his beer as he shouts in celebration after a touchdown. You get the point.
But these are not necessarily the qualities that put him in first place in my book. After all, I don’t curse, drink (much) beer, fight, or lose my temper . . . much. So why is he my guy? I am not sure, but I think this is it: He always screws up. He lets people (including himself) down. He doesn’t have everything figured out, but he is passionate about what he thinks he knows. And here is the kicker. Even though he falls on his face time and time again, he continues to dream big. Who does he think he is?
After all, isn’t this the guy who made the great confession? Wasn’t he the first to say Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God? When Jesus was telling his disciples that he must die, Peter was the one who had the gall to take the Son of God aside and rebuke him—the Son of God! Just who did Peter think he was? Well, he was passionate and impulsive. Yes, Jesus took him to the woodshed and called him Satan (something that must have eaten at Peter for the rest of his life), but Peter did not give up. This was also the one who, though he said he would die for Christ, denied him three times (and I know this ate at him forever). Broken and bruised, Christ took him by the hand and recommissioned him. Why? Who knows? This guy was a basket case. He was a reject. He could not finish what he started. He had big ambitions, but bigger fears.
But for some crazy, unnatural, ill-advised, and (to us) unwise reason, Christ choose him to be his right hand man. His right hand man! Peter. Peter, the fisherman. Peter, the denier. Peter, the idiot. Peter, the impulsive crazy man’s man who never fit the mold of a reverend, pastor, preacher, shepherd, priest, prophet, or bishop. I love it!
And don’t tell me that Peter was just this way before. Don’t tell me that he did not have the same issues after. Don’t tell me that he did not struggle with his impulsive, skeptical nature post-Holy-Spirit-inside-his-body. After all, ten years after Pentecost, he was still taking the long road around non-Jews, thinking he was better than they were. He told Cornelius, after a decade of being sealed with the Holy Spirit, that he would not dare eat with a Gentile. And what about that thing with Paul? Yeah, that one. The one that Luke failed to mention, but Paul let slip as he was banging away at the Galatians. Peter was still falling on his face. He could not help but relive old habits. He continued to hypocritically act as if he and the non-Jews were not friends when his Jewish buddies arrived at the party. He just kicked the non-Jews out and scarfed down a breath mint to cover the smell of the bacon he’d just been eating.
And yet, for some crazy reason, he was Christ’s right hand man. Christ continued to use him and use him greatly. Christ chose the most unlikely candidate to handle the most important task the world has ever known.
This is why I like Peter. I am the same. Perhaps, my issues are not exactly like Peter’s, but I can’t quit falling on my face. I can’t quit screwing it all up. I can’t quit doing stupid things. I can’t quit kicking myself, sticking my foot in my mouth, making stupid choices, and denying Christ. But you know what? Peter keeps telling me to get back up. He does not judge me, but he doesn’t let me sink too far.
Peter met his end on a cross upside down. How about that? He finally finished strong. After all that, he did it. Maybe, I will too.
Can you believe the wisdom and the love of Christ? Can you believe that he will use people like us? This is where that crazy ill-advised concept called “grace” comes in. I am so glad that all those stories of stupidity are recorded by God. They give me hope. Peter is my best friend because he gives me hope. I pray that his stories give you hope, as well.