She asked, “When do the voices stop?”
I don’t know if we all have them—I suspect that we all do, these whispers that seek to hamstring and cripple us. They know the worst words, words that trigger all sorts of negative feelings and reactions inside us…
The voices always like to walk right alongside us in life, seemingly choosing moments of glory and grace to sneak around our defenses and do their dirty work. Their agenda is to see us shamed, nullified, defeated, and inactive in the service of God’s Kingdom.
What do we do about the voices?
When do they stop?
The leaders of the first church—our “apostles” (and New Testament authors)—knew a lot about “voices”. Paul had blood on his hands, presiding over the arrests, torture, and executions of early Christians. James never believed in his brother Jesus’ messianic claims. His rejection of Jesus was so thorough that at the cross, Jesus entrusted his mother Mary to his disciple John. I was struck, however, with Peter’s voices, because, well, in a sense he repeated failed—at times spectacularly—fora long time.
- Peter so thoroughly misunderstood the ultimate nature of Jesus’ ministry that his friend, rabbi, and Messiah called him, “Satan” and gave him a verbal beat-down in front of the rest of the Twelve.
- He drew his sword in Gethesemane, betraying his understanding of the nature of Jesus’ “Kingdom”.
- While Jesus was on trial, being beaten and humiliated, Peter denied knowing him.
Those are the big ones. And if you know the gospel stories, you know that in spite of this Jesus has said that he will build his church through Peter, and that at the end of John’s Gospel, Jesus restores Peter and forgives him symbolically for his betrayal. At this point, Peter has become PETER. Apostle Superman. The First Pope. Eventual martyr for Jesus.
… But there’s more.
In Galatians 1, Paul relates a disagreement he’s having with Peter:
But when Peter came to Antioch, I had to oppose him to his face, for what he did was very wrong. 12 When he first arrived, he ate with the Gentile Christians, who were not circumcised. But afterward, when some friends of James came, Peter wouldn’t eat with the Gentiles anymore. He was afraid of criticism from these people who insisted on the necessity of circumcision. 13 As a result, other Jewish Christians followed Peter’s hypocrisy, and even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.
When did this occur? Paul says in Galatians that is at least 15 years after his conversion. If Paul was converted between 31 and 36, then this confrontation—this complete screwup by Peter—happened between 46 and 51AD.
Jesus had been dead for almost 20 years. Twenty years later, Peter is still misreading and misunderstanding the nature of Jesus’ kingdom.
When does Peter stop screwing up?
What are the voices saying to Peter?
“You NEVER get it do you?”
“When will you ever learn?”
Obviously, I don’t know what the voices said to Peter. No one does. But the thing is, there was another voice that whispered to Peter as well, and it says very different things:
“Get out of the boat; I believe in you!”
“I forgive you, Peter.”
“Feed my sheep; take care of my people.”
“You can do it!”
“Trust in me, and in my Spirit.”
“My peace I give to you.”
“God loves you.”
Here’s the deal: the voices never stop. They never stopped for Peter, or James, or Paul. But every one of them chose to listen to the deeper, truer voice that also doesn’t stop. The voice that rejects shame, and that calls you on to keep. on. running.
31 What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? 32 Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? 33 Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. 34 Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.
35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”[o]) 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.
38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[p]neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.