Have you heard of the idea of professional suicide? That a conscious or more commonly unconscious decision to do something that makes your job untenable, or damages your career path? I remember a friend of mine walking back from the pub at the top of North East Valley one night and walking over the tops of several cars. It was a stupid stunt and he was probably fairly drunk. He wanted to be a lawyer and that action very nearly finished his career. I think it was his first offence and I think he did get diversion –but you can see how a single decision can be damaging to your career. You might remember a certain politician a few years ago who started to say they believed in some of the more unusual conspiracy theories, and then there was an accusation of sexual harassment. Career killer. There was a story a few years ago about a Judge in Northland who made a false expenses claim –a few hundred dollars. It even sounded like he might have been told, ‘this is the way you do it’. Career finished.
I want to ask you today, is acknowledging your faith, or even interest in Jesus Christ a career killer for you; or perhaps are you subconsciously afraid that if you speak about your faith at work it would amount to professional suicide?
We’re talking about Peter today, one of Jesus’closest friends and his denial of Jesus. Peter was a fisherman, he was a business man and an enthusiastic disciple. When Jesus walked on water, Peter tried to copy him, but failed. Peter was the first one to acknowledge that Jesus was the son of God, but then stuffed up again. Peter was a bit of a talker, just hours before his most public failure –he said, ‘I will never abandon you, even if it costs my life’. Wow! Then he ends up cowering. –We will look at the story in a minute.
Have you wanted to deny even knowing someone? I remember they warned us at school that at about 13 most teenagers would much rather go hungry than have their mum walk into class with their lunch? I don’t know that woman! Are you at that stage. It took me years to learn to smile when my mum exaggerated my achievements –Simon got top of his class, there were only 3 of us in the class etc! It’s normal at times to want to deny knowing people, perhaps your husband has been drunk at some stage and decided to sing a little karaoke at someone else’s birthday party. Or perhaps it was worse because he wasn’t drunk. By the way I’m not encouraging drunkenness. Or perhaps your child has managed to pull a whole display over at the supermarket and you would rather just walk away. You see it is human to want to deny knowing people at times. I guess it is particularly human to want to deny knowing someone when they end up in court
Jesus was arrested, the priests wanted him gone and he was a threat to the Romans. Pontius Pilate knew that people who caused riots caused him trouble. Therefore, Jesus was arrested and taken away for a sort of trial. Now here’s where I want to stick up for Peter. At least he followed. Where were the others? James and John, the sons of thunder, might have gone home for a wee kip? Matthew and Andrew, might have nipped down the tea shop for a few light refreshments? No! they all beggared off, but Peter at least stayed near. Now notice in the story there are three escalations, The story happens in three places in the courtyard, ‘hey don’t you know him’, in the gate way, ‘you were with him’, and then perhaps even further way as Peter retreated –‘Oi you’! The language escalated –slave girl –‘You were with Jesus’, another slave girl –‘THIS fellow was with Jesus’, thirdly all the people around said ‘surely you were with him your accent gives you away’. And then, Peters denials escalated.
I don’t know what you are talking about. With an oath, I don’t know the man. Calling down curses, I don’t know the man.
Now I’m sympathetic to Peter, we all do dumb things, but here Peters mistake is noted down for millions of Christians to read over 2 Millennia. It’s tough justice. What did Peter do? He wept bitterly, but didn’t abandon Jesus. Later he is able to be restored. Why did Peter deny knowing Jesus? Why the turnaround from his earlier boast.
Fear, I think the primary emotion that Peter must have been feeling was fear, he was afraid perhaps of being arrested also, he may have had a legitimate fear for his life. Confusion – what was Jesus doing, why was he arrested? ‘I don’t know the man anymore.’ I’m not suggesting that’s what he said, but perhaps it was what he was thinking. What’s Jesus up to? I don’t know what he’s doing. And thirdly alone, Peter was alone with no Christian support. We were designed to live in Christian community – but ultimately for everyone of us there comes a day when we need to make our stand on our own. We all know that day comes when our kids leave home and they need to choose what they will stand up for. And sometimes we have to stand up for them, when they bring home a partner that we aren’t so sure about. You don’t have to agree with their lifestyle choices – but you do have to stand beside them. I have only ever seen pain caused by parents who disown their children.
Fear, confusion and a lack of support these are the places that we can make mistakes. I’ve watched Christian families where the daughter has ended up in a marriage that was suffocating her, and she has put up for years and then finally decided to pull the pin. Parents you might feel an avalanche of shame, but you need to stick by her. Sometimes there is abuse going on that you know nothing about, but other times the marriage was just suffocating. I’ve watched siblings not talk to each other for years because they are angry. These are the ways that we play Peter! I don’t know him, I don’t know her, she’s not the girl we raised. And I have to tell you that hurt goes deep, very deep.
I think the hardest thing to do is to stand behind a friend who has genuinely done wrong. Yes I know him, I call him a friend, but I don’t agree with his behaviour
Why do we deny Jesus? I think there are three simple reasons.
Sometimes we fear being mocked. I remember when I was a teenager in a new town. There was a girl on my bus who mocked me relentlessly for being a Christian. It was just horrible and it went on for years. But I wasn’t going to let her bully me.
Sometimes we fear professional suicide, if I talk about my faith –will I get fired, will I get black listed or will I just put a ceiling on my career? Sadly these might all be true. Now you don’t have to be obnoxious, but I challenge you today. Will you accept that ceiling for the same of the name of Jesus? I know Christians are known as hypocrites. But will you present a model of a Christian in your work place who is genuine. Will you be the ordinary Christian in your workplace?
And of course sometimes there is a real physical risk to naming Jesus. You might know the story of Rachel Scott at Columbine –who one of the shooters came up to a said ‘are you a Christian’–she knew he would kill her if she said yes. She said yes.
Denying Jesu is called apostasy. It was a very big issue for the church in it’s early life when the Roman persecution meant that some Christians were being burnt alive for their faith. You can imagine that if your Pastor, stayed alive by lying and then wanted to come back to his role, and your neighbor’s Pastor was executed for owning his faith, then that could be a recipe for trouble. And I can tell you for a while it was real trouble, people asked, “Can you be saved when you have denied Christ?”
For many Christian today, the question isn’t theoretical. Many of our brothers and sisters in Christ in the middle east are being murdered for being Christian. Some people are being offered the option, convert or die
How would you respond. In the west Christianity has become quite a lot about God looking after us, a God who loves us and will make life better for us, a Therapeutic God. Perhaps sometimes we need to stand up for Jesus and for what he stands for and for what we believe in.
I want to give you a chance –think, would I stand up for Jesus? But I want to ask you to think of a situation that’s appropriate for your level of faith. If you’ve a new Christian or just exploring –maybe the question is just if someone was putting down churches, would you speak up. Maybe it’s a workplace question, or at school, or maybe for you the question might be –If someone threatened your life. Would you stand up for Jesus? Will you not be like Peter?