Thursday, May 06, 2010

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Recently our church started a prayer campaign called the "153 Prayer Campaign". We are praying for 153 days to see 153 people surrender their lives to Jesus. I was reviewing John's telling of them catching the 153 fish and was struck by the feeling that many people in our lives are just like Peter, stuck between a rock and a hard place spiritually.

Let's review.

They were all together in the Upper Room sharing a meal together. Jesus casually expresses that someone will betray Him and verbal chaos breaks loose. Peter rises and states that he would die for Jesus to which He replied that Peter would betray before the rooster crowed. And it was so. The last glance of Jesus would haunt Peter. Before Peter could say or do anything, Jesus was gone. Before he could reconcile, or rationalize, Jesus is crucified, buried, and gone. Peter is caught between the sin he feels shame and guilt for and forgiveness.

How many people do we know that are in this position? How many of us are in this position? We feel shame and guilt. We are not sure if God is mad. A person in this position does not feel useful, wanted or loved. I've been there, have you?

Peter agonizes over the weekend until the ladies come running in the room with an astounding statement: Jesus is alive! Peter bolts out of the room and runs headlong into the tomb. Why? First, surely he wanted to see his friend. There is more, though. He has a need to talk with Jesus. He needs to be released. He did not have the scriptures like we do. It is possible he couldn't read anyway. He knew his actions. He knew how that made him feel. He knew something must be done but Jesus was unreachable. He had died and abandoned them.

The problem today is many people are in this same situation. It is possible they are not conscious of their sin. Our culture has redefined wrong on so many occasions that for those without a scriptural foundation there is no absolute truth as a standard. What people do know is that they feel something odd. They are caught between the sin they committed and a state of peaceful forgiveness.

Peter did not find Jesus that day. The disciples were gathered when Jesus walked through the wall into their presence. Peter wanted to speak with Jesus, but this was a group event and not a good time. Between the timing and Peter's pride nothing was accomplished that day. Was Jesus mad? Was Jesus avoiding him? There are many things that go through the mind of someone in this position. Thomas was with them the next time. Again, a group event and Peter is still stuck. John writes that Peter announces that he is going fishing. He is returning to what he knew. He was going back to what was comfortable and easy.

How many of us do this? We feel unwanted, unusable, and out of place. We are not sure if our relationship with God is solid. Our mind tells us one thing, but the heart tends to rule in these matters. We go back to what we know and feel comfortable with in life. We find other things to do than attend church. We find family, sports, chores, yard work, the bar and old habits. When we do find the time and inclination to return to church we are unfortunately greeted in such a way that heaps the guilt and shame.
"Where have you been?"
"Haven't seen in you in a while."
While we might not intend anything with these statements, but the received message is negative. Why can't we simply be happy with the present presence? When someone is caught between a rock and a hard place do they need to be reminded of their situation or just loved out of it?

Let's watch Jesus in action. Peter has gone fishing and has caught nothing. There is a distinct lesson to be learned here. When we, in our situation, go back to the comfortable we find no satisfaction. Peter caught no fish. Jesus arrives and makes a suggestion and they catch more than the nets can hold. After a nice breakfast on the beach Jesus initiates a discussion with Peter. He does not guilt. He does not shame. He does not ask for explanations. He loves.

"Peter do you love me more than these?"

The reference would be to the fish. In other words, do you love me more than what you have known to be comfortable? Do you love me more than your habits or past? Peter expressed that Jesus knew everything and yes he did. Did you notice what Jesus did? He loved Peter. What could happen if we just loved people? What transformation could happen if we simply loved people out of their position?

We often find ourselves between the action committed and the state of forgiveness we need. We feel stuck. Where is God? What does He feel? What will He do? When we go to church we are piled on with guilt and shame. Jesus lovingly and gently helped Peter. Will we do the same?