What does it mean to commit to peace?
Temptations to denial
Rev. Dr. Robert B. Woodruff
… Then Peter remembered that Jesus had said to him, “Before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And Peter broke down and wept.
Reflection: Denial serves as a barrier between a person and an unpalatable truth. And Peter, oft-depicted in the New Testament as a faithful “rock,” is forever etched in the Christian memory for over-confidently declaring he would never deny his master, then publicly denying him three times.
Peter’s denial is narrated in all four Gospels. It is an insightful lens through which to view our own bouts of denial. One way we become susceptible to denial is when we—ourselves, our churches, or our nation—turn a blind eye to those with the greatest need at home and abroad. When we do, we deny Jesus. Like Peter, the faithfulness to which we are called is predicated upon acknowledging difficult realities and not retreating from them.
The earthly fate of Jesus—and the potential social consequences of openly following him—seemed too much for Peter to shoulder. But Jesus did not ask Peter to be the savior. He simply asked Peter to love and follow him. Jesus asks no more and no less of us. Embracing God’s love moves us beyond denial to a place where we can confront hard truths, trusting in God’s power to change them.
Despite Peter’s denial of Christ in his darkest hour, God did not give up on Peter. Consequently, Peter did not give up on his faith. His tears were a first step at lowering his barriers to truth. He came to terms with his denial and faithfully followed the risen Christ unto death.
Action: Take a moment today to consider the world’s denial about the welfare of vulnerable populations at home and abroad. In what ways does that denial creep into your own heart and mind? Name that denial for what it is and reaffirm your commitment to the faith and love of Jesus.
Prayer: We believe in you, O Lord; help thou our unbelief. Open us to the wonderful possibilities of your love that transforms hearts and lives. Move us beyond barriers, that your love may abound. Amen.
Rev. Dr. Woodruff is pastor at Second Presbyterian Church in Albuquerque, NM. He holds a Master of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary and a Doctor of Ministry from Columbia Theological Seminary. He served as a Young Adult Volunteer in Guatemala in 2000.
This year’s A Season of Peace Resources are designed to help Presbyterians explore different forms and lenses for peacemaking. From the personal level to global issues, these reflections and prayers will help grow the faith and witness of the whole church. Through the 29 days of this year’s Season of Peace, we are invited to reflect upon:
- What does it mean to commit to Peace?
- Making peace by addressing root causes of poverty
- Making peace by disrupting systematic racism
- Making peace by ending violence
- Making peace by supporting refugees and migrants
- Partaking in peace in worship and at table this World Communion Sunday and through the Peace & Global Witness Offering
Each author represents a variety of vocations and experiences in peacemaking efforts. Individuals and households are invited to make use of these daily reflections beginning on Sunday, September 1, and concluding on World Communion Sunday, October 6.