In my morning devotions I read John 18, and saw something that may help us in this hotly contested Holy Week. When the soldiers came to arrest Jesus in Gethsemane, Peter pulled out his sword and cut off the ear of Malchus, the servant of the high priest (18:10).
How embarrassing for Jesus! Jesus was preparing to lay down his life for the world, and his number one lieutenant tried to kill one of the unarmed leaders on the other side. Peter’s impetuous swipe made for bad PR, and people were still talking about it around the fire as Jesus was on trial (18:26). Sure, Jesus claims to be loving and humble, but did you see what they did to poor Malchus? These guys deserve whatever they have coming.
A couple of lessons:
- Don’t be surprised at the lack of sympathy, or even understanding, of the value of religious freedom. New York Times columnist Ross Douthat blogged yesterday that the next shoe to fall will be the removal of tax exempt status from religious schools and organizations, which would effectively shut us down. Many of us may lose our jobs over this issue, and the culture will say we had it coming. Just as Pilate said “I find no basis for a charge against him,” yet still handed Jesus over to death (18:38), so our culture may agree that we are generally good people who nevertheless deserve to be punished.
- Let’s not pull a Peter and fearfully lash out. We should stand for our rights, as Paul used his Roman rights, but we must do so out of love rather than selfishness. We must defend human liberty, not merely for our own sake, but also for those who want to take it away. If liberty is lost then no one is safe. Culture changes, and one day those now on top may become the heretics. They will need the freedom we are now trying to protect for them.
- Don’t despair when some on our side speak rashly or hatefully. Call them on it. Tell them to put their sword away (18:11), but don’t concede that a few bad apples disqualify your point. Even Jesus had supporters who acted at cross-purposes to his cross. Don’t be shocked when we have them too. Let’s not throw them under the bus, but try to coax them back to a loving tone. Jesus didn’t give up on Peter. He restored him and made him the leader of his church.
Photo by Pict-your. Used by permission. Sourced via Flickr.