Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Have you ever been asked to provide an employment reference? One of the most common questions is: “Would you hire this person again?” Based on today’s reading from Matthew, if you were Jesus, would you hire Peter again? After all, he fell asleep on the job several times, and when the pressure was high he denied even knowing his boss. Yet Jesus named Peter the rock solid enough to found his church.
How do we feel about Peter denying Christ three times? We might like to think we would have been stronger, but we have the advantage of hindsight. More humbly, we might be grateful our performance hasn’t been similarly tested. We might find relief that, rather than place his trust in the perfect, Jesus placed it in those who loved him and whom he loved.
This was not the first or last time Peter would stumble. When an authority figure fails (or merely fails to please us), our reaction can be disproportionate. We expect them to know more, do better, and be stronger than we ourselves are. If they have purposely projected such an image, their failings invite that much more criticism. Maybe we become silently resentful of a minister who hasn’t provided as much attention as we feel we deserve. Maybe we gossip to our co-workers when our boss makes a mistake we could just as easily have made. Maybe we resent our parents because we simply know we could have done a better job.
No one is above honest criticism, but our standards should be fair to everyone. If today Jesus appointed any one of us to lead his church, that person would be a fool not to be more intimidated than honored. Positions of authority, handled responsibly, are enormous burdens. Yet the people who hold them are only people. Let us be at least as forgiving of them as we would like them to be of us. Our minister has overwhelming priorities. Our boss needs support more than criticism. Our parents are still growing as people. Peter needed a lifetime to grow into his job too.
Comfort: Jesus never expects perfection, only love.
Challenge: Ask a minister, employer, parent or other authority figure to describe their responsibilities to you.
Prayer: God of all Creation, thank you for the gift of forgiveness. Amen.
Discussion: Are you more, less, or equally critical of authority figures as you are of others?
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