I am immersed in the Passion Week these days. Today I have spent a great deal of time meditating on Peter’s passion in defending Christ. Peter loved Christ so much, so intensely, that He was compelled by this love and passion to draw his sword and strike the arresting soldier, cutting off His ear. Would I love Jesus enough to cut off an ear for Him?
In a culture that encourages tolerance, acceptance, and harmonious co-existence… Is there room for love?
Lets face it, most of us struggle to speak the name of Jesus when we are knowingly in a hostile environment.
They are scary things. As a society and as a culture, we want to diminish and manage these things… and understandably so!
We don’t want people’s ears getting cut off.
We don’t want abortion clinics getting bombed.
Or planes getting hijacked and transformed into missiles.
Is there still room for love?
I wish I could say I loved Jesus with that kind of passion. Not because I think He needs or even wants me out there killing for Him, or cutting off ears for Him. . . and I’ll get to that in a minute. . . but because I realize that deep within me there is somewhat of a disaffected apathy. My egocentric world gives way to a detachment that makes it hard to really truly love and give my life and all of my passion to Christ.
And when I look back on the times that I have given this kind of passion and devotion to Him, I realize that I did my own cutting off of ears.
My passion and devotion was motivated out of a fear. I’m beginning to speculate that Peter’s may have been too.
My passion and devotion usually took place in my mind. I found a lot of my identity in being a Christian. (it is noteworthy that this is not the same thing as finding one’s identity in Christ) I therefore had a great deal of pride in my theology, ideologies, worldview etc. In the name of defending Jesus–and I honestly believed I was–I would cut people down to size… stab at them with my sword, which I proudly held up as the sword of the Spirit… the word of God, and prove to them how superior my theology was. Anyone and anything that threatened my Jesus needed to be answered to.
I really believed I was doing these things for Jesus. “winning people” to the Kingdom with my sparkling arguements, dazzling intellect, and infallible logic. (re-read that last sentence. I don’ t know about you, but i see a lot of pride, and not a lot of trust in Jesus)
I wonder what might have been happening for Peter just then. Peter was a man of action. It was all or nothing.
He was the first to assert that Jesus was the Son of God-the Messiah.
In this moment… it looked like everything was going awry. I don’t really think He believed Jesus’ words that this must happen. Maybe He thought His rabbi was just a little melancholic this week, and would get through it.
but now… this!? soldiers coming to arrest his Messiah!? How could He be the Messiah AND be arrested!
In this one moment… everything Peter had given his life to was being threatened.
In one act that, I’m beginning to wonder, was equally desperate as it was zealous, He attacked the thing that threatened to diminish his understanding of the Messiah.
I attacked the things that threatened my understanding of the Messiah. I witness other Christians do this all the time. otherwise calm people losing their cool when they don’t have an answer–afraid that the question may unravel their entire understanding of Christ, salvation, and consequently their entire worldview.
Jesus gently rebukes.
“Put your sword away. Those who live by the sword, die by the sword. Don’t you realize that if I really wanted I could call on my Father, and 12 companies–more if I want them– of fighting angels would be here, battle ready? But if I did that, how would the Scriptures be fulfilled?”
and when he allowed himself to be arrested, the disciples scattered and ran away. In the NIV it says they “deserted Him and fled”
When Jesus turns out not to be what or who we thought we were defending, we can come pretty unglued.
So then Jesus heals the ear of the soldier. (he does this before the disciples flee) It’s as if with this simple action He’s saying again, “you don’t get it. This isn’t what I’m about. This isn’t my way”
I don’t need to be cutting off ears, or fighting for Jesus. When I am fighting “for Him” it is usually to defend my paradigms for fear of losing my grip on reality… of becoming disoriented… It’s got more to do with pride, and more to do with my need to understand.
But Jesus in His time on earth was constantly unearthing notions about Himself. Maybe sometimes I need to be disoriented!
Maybe, like Peter, I need to be disoriented-reminded that Jesus isn’t always what I expect-so that I can be re-oriented, and come to a fuller understanding of him… so that Jesus can lift my eyes to the bigger picture that I always forget about.
Who only days (hours?) earlier stated emphatically that he would die for Christ. Then demonstrated this passion in attacking for Christ… then FLED for fear of being arrested for Christ.
I desperately want to have an unquenchable passion for Jesus. But maybe it’s less about a passion to “defend” Him, and more about trusting that He is FAR bigger than my defenses or anyone’s slander, and learning to let that passion lead me into “following” Him…. which is much harder.
because If I’m serious about following Him…
It’s not going to be about defending Him. It’s going to be more about dying for Him. About loving the unlovable. Being in the messy and broken places. Attacking injustice and championing the weak. Loving relentlessly, and scandalously. Breaking cultural and societal rules. Being alone. Suffering. Bringing redemption into the darkest, ugliest corners of the earth.
I won’t be asked to kill for Him…
But I will be asked to lay down my Life (and that includes my pride and ideologies, etc) for Him.
And I might be asked to die for Him.