Summary: Lenten study of Peter’s struggle with guilt & shame

He’s one of the most popular bible characters. Simon Peter. People are attracted to him, perhaps because he seems one of the most real; we can identify with him. He’s almost lovable because of his very transparent humanness. As you follow the account of Jesus’ life and watch Peter move with the Lord you are witness to the brash moments and the foolish ones, strong times and obviously weak moments. They’re all there.

People identify with Simon. Perhaps sometimes almost more for what he doesn’t do.

He doesn’t follow through on the commitment he made.

He doesn’t keep his word.

He doesn’t remain loyal.

If you think the Bible is just an out of touch collection of stories, an escape, a total disconnect with reality, think again. The account of Simon Peter is brutally honest, painfully real. So real that many of us read his story and hear our story; look into the book and see our portrait.

You, too?

The question - "Who do you say that I am?"

The strong, rock-like reply.

The question - "Weren’t you with Jesus?"

The shallow, quivering response.

The rooster crows.

And Peter remembers - "No, Lord. I’d never do something like that!"

Crying, rushing out into the night - the specter of his deception haunting him.

Guilt and shame crowd him, cling to him.

Guilt - the realization that I have done something wrong; I stand in violation; I’ve crossed the line; I’ve broken the trust.

Shame - Guilt’s sister. The next one in line. Moving beyond what I DO and attaching itself to who I AM.

I am bad.

I am dirty.

I am worth less - less than before; less than others.

All alone now - Jesus inside before the kangaroo court, the other disciples cowering behind bushes and locked doors somewhere in the dark.

It’s just Peter, his guilt and his shame.

Ah, Peter - you’re really not alone.

We’re right there with you! Your brothers and sisters.

The yoke you carry with the twin burdens weighing you down - we know guilt and shame too, all too well.


Perhaps as a student you cheated on an exam at school - there was this one really important question which you needed, but which drew a great big blank in your mind. However you were able to sneak a peak at the student in front and to the left of you. Aced the exam. Your parents congratulated you. Maybe you even got an award. But somewhere in the back of your mind is the picture of you cheating... cheating... you!!

Perhaps you got into a conflict with a fellow employee. Over the quality of a particular product which you both had a hand in producing. You begin to snipe away at him, gossiping behind his back at coffee break. He becomes alienated from fellow workers. Then one day, you realize suddenly that what went wrong WAS your fault. But you already have said so much..... Better keep quiet.

But look at how the rest of the bunch are treating him now...

Perhaps it wasn’t at work. Perhaps it was at home: a conflict with your spouse or a brother or sister. Perhaps at church: a disagreement with a fellow Christian.

Perhaps it was a deal in which you swindled another person. Or you reneged on a promise and left someone dangling; maybe hung them out to dry, maybe even maliciously.

Looking back, you know it was wrong. But there is far too much water under the bridge to go back.

So there you sit:



Have you ever had an experience like that?

Maybe I should ask, "is there anyone here who has NOT experienced that sort of thing at one time or another in their life?"

You know how it goes, right? I think we all do.

Stuck. Feeling the weight. Wanting to get rid of this garbage.

So we deal with it.

Sometimes by trying to outrun the spooks of the past:

quit school, get a divorce, find a different job, transfer out of the church, move to a different neighborhood.

Sometimes by pretending life is a big party, and you are the clown:

everything is one big joke; everytime is a good time for a cynical comment, a smart remark, a snide jab.

Sometimes we get angry - maybe that’ll sort things out, or at least make us feel better:

angry at the school, disgusted with politicians, spouting off about this or that which is always wrong in the church, rebelling again and again against parents.

Sometimes we try to drown out the the blame that guilt and shame keep heaping onto the fires of our conscience. We sweep it under the carpet of busyness:

Serve on 4 different committees. Hold down two jobs and work 80+ hours/week. Get involved in 4 or 5 different social groups and clubs that keep you away from home every night of the week.

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