Getting Warmer


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 12; 146, 1 Kings 8:65-9:9, James 2:14-26, Mark 14:66-72

Today’s reading from Mark finds Peter warming himself by a fire in the courtyard of the high priest’s palace, where inside Jesus is standing trial and facing a battery of false witnesses. The witnesses outside aren’t much more truthful. When a servant woman confronts Peter as a companion of Jesus, he denies it and retreats to the forecourt, where it is less warm but he can still feel like he hasn’t abandoned Jesus. After the cock crows she points him out to the gathered guards and other bystanders, but still he denies knowing Jesus. When the bystanders themselves begin accusing him, he curses and swears he doesn’t know Jesus.

After the cock crowed a second time and he remembered how Jesus had predicted these denials, could Peter feel warm no matter how close he got to the fire?

It can be easy to convince ourselves we’re standing by Jesus when we’ve really chosen the coziness of the courtyard over the real heat in the courtroom.  How close do we let ourselves get before our rationalizations begin? Do we want “Christian” values enacted as law … until they affect our wallets? Do we turn the other cheek … until our physical safety is threatened? Do we love our neighbors … until they put up a campaign sign for the other candidate?

We all fall short of living Christ’s love perfectly. When we do, it’s important that instead of making excuses about laws and practical repercussions, we are honest with ourselves and others about our failures, limitations, and fears. Christ knows and forgives them, but we can’t be forgiven for something we won’t confess.

In his epistle, James talks about works as evidence of faith. He’s not saying we’re saved by works – he’s saying if our heart isn’t changed enough to move us to action, it isn’t changed enough. When Jesus talked about loving people, he wasn’t promoting warm feelings, but charitable actions. We can say we love our enemies, but if we don’t do good to them, it’s not the kind of love Jesus addresses. Merely doing no harm falls short of the glory. By extension, if we say we love Jesus but that love ends with words – in the warm courtyard of personal salvation safely removed from the danger of the courtroom  – and risks not even our comfort, do we love enough?

When we hear the crow that forces us to face our shortcomings, it’s not too late to do better. Peter remained the rock of the newly forming church. His courage backslid once or twice but, as the memory of that courtyard surely never left him, he ultimately did right – even when it cost him.

Christ promises us a failure is not an end. When confessed and confronted, it is an opportunity to grow ever closer to him.

Comfort: You haven’t done anything God hasn’t already forgiven someone else for. 

Challenge: Look for reasons to love extravagantly, rather than excuses to stay comfortable.

Prayer: Loving God, may my actions reflect the state of my heart, and may the state of my heart reflect Christ. Amen. 

Discussion: Where do you struggle to act on your faith because doing so is uncomfortable or impractical?

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