Summary: Attempting to stand against the pressure of the evil one is a recipe for defeat, unless and until we are strengthened by the Risen Saviour.

“[The soldiers] seized [Jesus] and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house, and Peter was following at a distance. And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them. Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, said, ‘This man also was with him.’ But he denied it, saying, ‘Woman, I do not know him.’ And a little later someone else saw him and said, ‘You also are one of them.’ But Peter said, ‘Man, I am not.’ And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, ‘Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean.’ But Peter said, ‘Man, I do not know what you are talking about.’ And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, ‘Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.’ And he went out and wept bitterly.” [1]

We met at a local coffee shop. In a rage, he had walked away from the fellowship of the church, renouncing his membership in the assembly, vowing never to return. I sought to discover the source of his discontent as a first step in seeking reconciliation. “You’re a coward,” he growled. He was angry that I had not publicly excoriated a fellow elder whom he had decided needed to be publicly humiliated. My refusal to agree with his assessment did nothing to mollify him.

I responded evenly to his salacious charge, “Of course I am a coward. I don’t enjoy fighting and I will do whatever I can short of compromising the Faith to seek unity among the people of God.” This was not the answer my once strongest supporter was anticipating. He was nonplused at my reply, and unable to immediately respond, though he was still obviously seething.

In point of fact, I don’t know anyone who has been in a conflict that didn’t have a measure of hesitation. At an extreme end of conflicts, Marines who have been in combat may be reluctant to speak of the fear they felt, but in unguarded moments they will acknowledge the fear they felt. Their training enabled them to perform the difficult, though necessary, tasks they were assigned; but fear was a reality, nevertheless. Police have a measure of fear when they are called upon to do the hard tasks that society demands of them in confronting people who have violated the norms of civil society. Do you suppose that an officer has no fears when approaching a car after a traffic stop? They are utterly dependent that those in the vehicle will be honourable and compliant.

Fear is a constant part of life. And when great threats are made against our person, the fear we feel may well be seen as cowardice. Each of us can look back at times when we were confronted by challenges, and our response was less than satisfying. Each of us has played the game of, “I should’ve…” or “I could’ve…” The point of making this statement is that each of us has experienced times that left us dissatisfied with our reaction to the challenge.

Few of us know precisely how we will respond when we are threatened because we hold to the Faith. We would be well advised to avoid boasting of what we would do if we should suffer an assault against our person, or an assault against our family, because of what we believe. We hope we would respond with courage, but we don’t know that we would be courageous. Nor shall we be able to speak of our response until that response is required.

In the comedic movie “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” the bravest knights are denoted for their boldness in running away. “Run away! Run away!” becomes the byline for each dangerous encounter of the movie. It could well be the unofficial motto of many of the saints. Oh, we are bold enough in daily interactions in the world, but when challenged to defend the Faith, we are masters of deflecting ridicule, of running from even giving the appearance of standing firm in the Faith of Christ the Lord. Perhaps that should not be so surprising in light of Jesus’ cautionary warning to His disciples as He prepared them for His Passion and what they would face because of their faith in Him.

A FOOLISH BOAST — “Jesus said to [the disciples], ‘You will all fall away, for it is written, “I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.” But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.’ Peter said to him, ‘Even though they all fall away, I will not.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.’ But he said emphatically, ‘If I must die with you, I will not deny you.’ And they all said the same” [MARK 14:27-31].

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